Monday, 31 March 2014

Figuring out where to begin: How to do KM for a start-up business unit (Part 3)

Following my earlier posts on my assignment with the Sub-Regional Response Facility for Syria in Amman, Jordan, where we identified the general directions for KM for this business unit, here are now the details of the KM plan that I introduced, based on our earlier needs assessment.

1. An Online Collaboration Space for the Facility, targeted at the Regional Working Group and invited guests
To support of the Facility’s role as a broker, the creation of an online collaboration space hosted by the Sub-Regional Facility will allow the team to provide an online home for the Regional UNDG Working Group for the Arab States/MENA to share draft papers and relevant resources on an ongoing basis. Even more it creates a space to discuss questions and collect comments from colleagues on the Facility’s ongoing work. In the spirit of ‘working out loud’ we will also invite a number of selected colleagues from all UNDG agencies into this space.
2. Establishment of a UNDG-wide Community of Practice on Resilience-Based Development, including selected guests from academia
A key element of the Facility’s broker function is fostering a Community of Practice of colleagues working on resilience in context of humanitarian and development work. The Facility will use the above space as a launch pad for e-discussions and ad-hoc queries and benefit from the input of UN colleagues. A first formal e-discussion on vulnerability criteria has already taken place in December 2013, and the Facility will reach out to selected experts in the field of resilience, humanitarian work, local governance, etc., followed by additional discussions and surveys among the new community members in 2014.
3. Mapping of stakeholders for research on resilience and partners for engagement on Resilience-Based Development
In order to identify relevant stakeholders that the Facility can engage and work with in its role as a knowledge broker, a knowledge mapping exercise is recommended. This will be targeted at two levels:
  • Mapping of potential members for the above Community of Practice on Resilience-Based Development for Syria.
  • Mapping of stakeholders for collaboration on research, innovation and substantive projects outside the UN system.

4. Exploration of organizing social innovation camps in Jordan, Lebanon and/or Turkey to identify and prototype e-governance solutions for a priority issue (e.g. local services)
UNDP’ experience in the Europe & CIS region suggests that there is great potential in bringing together citizens, local actors and innovative NGOs and companies to identify innovative solutions to local issues that would benefit from the UN’s support in prototyping, testing and scaling up. This can include the Social Innovation Camp methodology and could also be precluded by a public innovation competition to crowd-source practical solutions to local challenges around resilience-based development. Depending on the evaluation of the experience, this could be a precursor to widening the scope of audience and establishing at a later stage an ongoing innovation lab facility in cooperation with one or several of Syria’s neighbour governments, similar to Kolba Labs in Armenia.

5. Series of targeted consultations on questions related to resilience in context of a sub-regional development forum for Syria
In the process of identifying innovative solutions for operationalizing a resilience-based development approach, the Facility should draw on input from a larger audience. UNDP/KICG’s experience with large scale consultations targeted at a large pool of external experts and interest communities, such as the Rio+20 Dialogues or the Post-2016 Consultations have the potential to add significant value to the above process. The objective would be to inform the operationalization process of the resilience-based approach with substantive experiences, suggestions and prioritizations from selected actors in the sub-region, including government planners, public service workers, host and refugee communities, as well as selected civil society organizations and private sector companies.
6. Creation of data visualizations and infographics, to use as communication, advocacy and capacity building tool
Once the resilience-based approach has been operationalized in more detail, the Facility’s dissemination and capacity building efforts will benefit the use of simplified infographics and data visualizations for communication purposes. This is particularly suitable for data-heavy research findings that allow for clear conclusions, narratives and calls to action. This visualizations can then be used in print, video or online knowledge and communication products.
7. Conducting monthly webinars, to periodically inform UNDP and UNDG stakeholders about the Facility’s ongoing work, outputs and results
While the focus of the Facility is on brokering and innovating, there is still a natural need to disseminate results to at least the immediate audiences the Facility is working with, such as UNDP and UNDG agencies. In order to create visibility for the work of the Facility, to communicate results of research, projects, events and initiatives, as well as to foster learning within the Community of Practice, the Facility could host regular online webinars that would serve as both learning and advocacy instrument.
8. Maintaining a regular blog about the Facility’s ongoing work and results, to increase visibility and influence the general debate on resilience
In order to influence the debate on Syria among stakeholders, and ultimately influence decision making of development actors, the value of the tool of blogging cannot be underestimated. Maintaining a regularly updated public blog where different authors provide personal views and reflections based on UNDG’s work can have a significant impact on framing the conversation along the outputs, activities and objectives of the Facility. I order to do this right, the Facility must be committed to publish at least two blog posts per month. This can be reasonably achieved by rotating authors among the facility’s substantive development experts.
9. Peer Assists, applied as needed to get input from peers on internal tasks and challenges of the Facility
A Peer Assist is a KM methodology (see instructional video) that brings together a group of peers (on site or online) to elicit feedback on a problem, project, or activity, and draw lessons from the participants' knowledge and experience. Peer Assists are useful when starting a new activity or project and a team wants to benefit from the advice of more experienced colleagues, or another group that has faced a similar situation in the past.
This methodology is targeted at the Facility internally to improve its own work as a team. The Facility should map the planned projects for the upcoming, determine which of the new projects and initiatives would benefit from a formal Peer Assist, and then identify potential peer experts who could be invited to participate. However, they can also be organized ad-hoc when problems emerge that the team is not quite sure how to address.
10. After-Action Reviews, after key events or activities to reflect on the ongoing work of the Facility and capture learning points
An After Action Review (AAR) is an internal process used by a team to reflect on a recent activity or event to capture learning points with the goal of improving future performance. The facilitator of an AAR will ask the team three questions: “What was supposed to happen?”, “What actually did happen?” and “What can we learn from it?” AARs can also be employed in the course of a project to ‘learn while doing’. They should be carried out with an open spirit and no intent to blame. The American Army, which invented the methodology, used the phrase "leave your rank at the door" to optimize learning in this process. The KM Specialist of the Facility should constantly look out for opportunities to conduct AARs with the team, which can be as brief as 15-30 min, even though AARs of up to 2 hours might be suitable for reflecting on larger projects or events. 

Below you can see an overview on how the different suggested KM action items will be rolled out in 2014.