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Community Contribution

Harnessing Organizational Learning and Knowledge Management in South Sudan

Michelle Adams-Matson and Jim Statman

USAID operates in a politically, economically and socially complex environment in South Sudan. The outbreak of civil war in 2013, widespread violence, and armed conflict in 2016 have created a particularly challenging development context. As is the case in most non-permissive environments, Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) complete shorter, one-year tours in-country which means the Mission faces frequent staff turnover. At the start of this initiative, there was no systematic or standardized process for facilitating these transitions and FSOs often found themselves deluged with an overwhelming volume of unorganized and non-prioritized information provided over a very short period of time. Without knowing where to access useful information, incoming staff expended considerable time and effort recreating processes and resources that may have already been in place. The existing transition process resulted in a loss of institutional knowledge, duplication of effort and decrease in delivery momentum.

USAID’s Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL) and USAID/South Sudan partnered with Management Systems International's (MSI) Monitoring and Evaluation Support Program (MESP) to initiate the Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning (KMOL) pilot program. The purpose of the pilot was to 1) create a more systematic approach for knowledge management, 2) generate knowledge and apply it for organizational improvement, 3) capitalize on knowledge management best practices to foster better decision-making, and 4) support the Mission in achieving its mission more effectively. Working collaboratively, we identified solutions for improving knowledge transfer between employees. Moreover, this approach put Foreign Service Nationals (FSNs) at the center of the KMOL effort given their long-term presence and institutional memory.

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