How do you ensure that relevant knowledge gets to the right person in your organisation at any given time? What do you do to make information accessible to anyone in your organisation? When staff leaves, what system do you have in place to make sure that relevant information and knowledge that this person has stays in the organisation?
Knowledge management helps to find answers to these type of questions. With the help of knowledge management expert Steven Warmoes, Caritas Europa organised a knowledge management workshop last 3 October in the frame of the 2017 edition of its Organisational Development Forum. During the workshop, participants discovered the potential and the added value that understanding knowledge management brings to any Caritas organisation that is facing the challenge of renewing its way of keeping track of, identify and filter out relevant information from the immense amount of all kind of information that exists in today's super connected world.
Knowledge management - Where to start?
Knowledge management is about finding good answers to our questions to help us making the decisions that we need to move forward with our work and reach our objectives. And knowledge management helps to structure this quest for answers.
So how would you start? Identifying what information is relevant for your organisation and must be managed as knowledge probably is a good first step to take. A way to start this is by asking yourself the question "what do I or does my organisation learn with this?". Then, a second step could be identifying who in my organisation should take care of assessing and managing the information. That someone will also ensure that everyone in the organisation will be aware of the existence of this knowledge where to find it. However, this cannot be a one person task only. Managing knowledge requires the contribution from every staff member, from all levels of the organisation's hierarchy.
To structure your team or community efficiently, the coordinator needs to be visualised in the centre of this structure. She or he is then surrounded by her or his team members, each of them with a very specific set of tasks to gather knowledge. They communicate with the rest of the staff, who also are communicating with their own peers and contacts in other structures.
This structure reflects quite well Caritas Europa's current working structures. The Secretariat in Brussels acts as a coordinator, and it based its work on the contributions from the members of different working structures, such as task forces, action groups, reference networks and steering groups of the different areas of work undertaken at European level. These contributions help to assess what information is relevant and contributes to reaching the European objectives of the network.
Slide from Steven Warmoes' presentation "Knowledge Management - what is it?"
Everyone benefits from knowledge management
Knowledge management benefits the whole organisation, all its hierarchical levels contribute to and yield rewards from knowledge management. If a manager does not know what ideas her or his staff members might have that could contribute positvely to the organisation, she or he would never be able to make the organisation profit from them. And if staff members do not know what issues worry and occupy managers, they cannot possible contribute to addressing them.
This applies also across different organisations. During the practical sessions of the workshop, participants not only shared they needs in terms of knownledge management, but they were also able to offer solutions and good practices that could address other organisation's needs. For instance, Trócaire (Caritas Ireland) finds that Ireland's national coordination body of NGOs offers a unique opportunity to share knowledge and enhance the efficiency of the organisations participating in it. In Cordaid (Caritas Netherlands) there is a solid experience in using ICT solutions to collect information and store it in transparent and accessible ways. Caritas Portugal has in place an online tool to facilitate the contributions from the local and regional Caritas to the national activity report.
Finally, Steven Warmoes revealed the main driver of sharing: "People are ready to share knowledge when they act as a community with a common goal, common mission. If the organisation fosters competition among staff members instead, then there's of course nothing to share. Individual-based rewards and objectives hamper efficient knowledge management and they are counterproductive for the organisation in the long-term. Staff will leave eventually, and they will take with them an enormous amount of knowledge wealth that the organisation will not profit from anymore".
Contact Caritas Europa's Insitutional Development officer Miriam Pikaar if you would like to know more about this workshop and the work of Caritas Europa in the field of knowledge management.
About this workshop
The event was organised in Belgrade, Serbia. Caritas Europa thanks Rev. Ivica Damjanovic and all staff in Caritas Serbia, for their support and collaboration in organising this workshop.
The OD FORUM has received financial support from the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation "EaSI" (2014-2020). For further information please consult: http://ec.europa.eu/social/easi