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Knowledge Profiling – Promoting easy access to knowledge generated in projects and programmes

Albert Engel (albert.engel@gtz.de) and Walter Huppert (walter.huppert@freenet.de) (Text taken from: Bulletin GTZ, No. 16, December 2007)

 

Promoting easy access to knowledge generated in projects and programmes (GTZ and IFAD)This is a new and simple method has been developed to capture and exchange knowledge generated in projects. It is described in a Manual, which was jointly prepared by GTZ and IFAD. The Manual is meant as a supporting tool to knowledge management in Development Cooperation and its purpose is threefold: First, it provides a quick reference to the knowledge generated in projects and programmes. Second, it puts the focus on those areas of knowledge judged to be worth mentioning by the stakeholders themselves. And third, it presents a method that facilitates comparison of knowledge acquisition between projects and even cross-sectorally. In the following, a short outline of the Knowledge Profiling method is given and the actual status of its application is discussed.

The concept

Knowledge profiling offers a simple and easily applicable method to secure and exchange knowledge generated by development initiatives.

It builds on ideas developed by GTZ in Namibia, where it was applied by several projects/programmes and met with enthusiastic acceptance. It will now become a component of the GTZ package of debriefing instruments. Knowledge profiling also aroused the interest of the IFAD Water Desk (IFAD/WD) in Rome. IFAD joined forces with GTZ to fine-tune the method and promote its application.‘Knowledge profiling’ takes a look at project outcomes with a new ‘pair of glasses’.

Traditionally the focus has been on reaching goals, achieving results and compiling lessons learned. Knowledge profiling does this, too, but it adds a new perspective: the spotlight is on the knowledge and experience gained by the major stakeholders. Moreover, documentation of this knowledge is arranged to allow quick reference to details. Finally, knowledge profiling facilitates comparison of knowledge acquisition between projects and even cross-sectorally.

The main principles are easy accessibility, comparability and stakeholder perception, which are in fact seldom observed during documentation of project-generated knowledge. To change this in future, the method emphasises the “4 Ss” of knowledge profiling: Stakeholder feedback, Shortness, Structuring, and Standardisation.

Stakeholder feedback: The major stakeholders identify the knowledge generated by the project/programme that they value most and think should be remembered and shared. This step ensures that the profiling exercise focuses not on ‘expert knowledge’ but on knowledge gained by the local people. Shortness: The topics or areas of knowledge identified by the major stakeholders are termed “modules”. For each module a brief and concise knowledge profile is elaborated, specifying the details of the knowledge gained and the lessons learned in connection with the module.

Knowledge profiles are presented in brief, “bullet point” listings. Structuring: The knowledge profiles have a special structure. While outputs, outcomes and impacts achieved by the project (or project phase) are briefly mentioned, the emphasis is on knowledge, innovations and experience gained in certain areas defined beforehand. Standardisation: Knowledge profile structure should be standardised, so that specific information can be easily traced and compared among different projects.

A central feature of Knowledge Profiling is the identification of so-called ‘knowledge modules’. These are major clusters of themes in which, in the opinion of the stakeholders, essential knowledge and experience were accumulated in the course of the project. More often than not, these knowledge modules relate to central issues
of capacity development (e.g. organizational development, institutional issues, process related aspects etc) and hence allow comparison of knowledge generation and experiences between projects and programmes with a different sectoral focus.

The sequence of steps

A knowledge profiling exercise follows a sequence of steps which centers around semi-structured interviews with selected stakeholders who are supposed to have gained knowledge during project implementation. First, a number of key ‘knowledge modules’ are pre-selected and then these major clusters of themes in which, in
the opinion of the stakeholders, essential knowledge and experience were accumulated in the course of the project, are verified and closely scrutinized during the interviews. A useful structure of the interviews should differentiate with respect to:

  • methods, tools and instruments applied
  • processes employed
  • furthering / hindering factors occasioned by frame conditions
  • people and organisations knowledgeable about the module
  • available documents with valuable information related to the module

Application

As mentioned above, knowledge profiling exercises have originally been initiated in GTZ projects in Namibia. Up to now, a total of four knowledge profiling studies have been implemented in that country, concentrating on projects in the area of livestock management, biodiversity, water management and, most recently, land reform.
IFAD has conducted a full knowledge profiling exercise in a project on agricultural water management in Ghana and has financed the elaboration of the Knowledge Profiling Manual.

Download from: http://www.ifad.org/english/water/manual/kp.pdf

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