We saw in the F Series of blogs that KM supports value creation. A question is: whose value?
The answer is neat and unequivocal in the private sector: corporate KM is driven primarily by customer value. That is why use of KM and growth of the KM discipline have grown fastest in the private sector.
How about KM applied in the government sector? Who should define what is valuable for a government agency? The public served by the government agency? The head of the agency? The people’s elected representatives in Congress who appropriate taxpayers’ money to the agency? The electorate? Or who?
KM for development is more complex. Many actors and stakeholders are involved in development projects and each of them has its own and usually different idea of what valuable result they want from a development project:
- Beneficiary community and each member of the beneficiary community
- Project funder, lender or donor
- Development NGO or institution which may be the lead implementor the project, and the development workers or professionals employed by the NGO
- Local government which may be the recipient, conduit or guarantor of the development funds, and the elected or appointed officials therein
- National government and the officials therein
- Technology providers, construction companies, infrastructure and utilities providers, service providers
- Academe, development research institutions and other support systems.
Applying the private sector perspective in the development sector, the end consumer which is the beneficiary community or social group should define what is valuable. Therefore KM for development should be driven by what the community truly wants or needs, right?
Well, perhaps not all the time. Let us look at two examples.
An upstream community wants to withdraw or use water from a river. Doing so satisfies its need and therefore creates value for them but at the same time subtracts opportunities for a downstream community which also wants to satisfy its own similar needs for water.
In many places in our planet, development can hardly proceed because of conflict — a sign of eroded or damaged social capital. In fact social capital can be double-edged: some social groups achieve unity among insiders (improving “bonding” social capital = exclusive social capital) at the expense of greater hostility to outsiders (worsening “bridging” social capital = inclusive social capital). When armed hostility obtains between two social groups, results valued by one group are harmful to the other group. Each group will use knowledge for destroying the other group. Remember that in KM, knowledge is defined as capacity for effective action and in the case of war, effective action is that which can destroy the capabilities and will of the enemy.
Then, what is the problem here? Is KM part of the solution, or is it part of the problem? Is there something else besides KM we need to consider? What is missing here?
What do you think?