T1-2 Development Organizations: Supporting Desired Stakeholder Actions

Knowledge management in government and development organizations is more complex than knowledge management in private corporations. For one, development organizations have to serve and deal with many stakeholders and external actors with their many different and sometimes competing interests and operating at different levels: international, national, local and community levels. For another, market-based measures common in private corporations are generally absent in the development sector.

I am in Hanoi, Vietnam this week, interviewing managers in public, local and international non-government and international donor institutions — stakeholders of the UNISDR-Asia Pacific (UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction). My mission was to help UNISDR-AP better understand the knowledge needs of its various stakeholders in South and Southeast Asia, starting with Vietnam (a Stakeholders Knowledge Demand Assessment study).

An exceedingly simple framework for this purpose is one based on the same basic KM framework described in the F-series of my blogs:

KNOWLEDGE and other actionable information –> Desired stakeholder ACTIONS

The steps are straightforward: (a) identify and rank (by power and reach, level of trust in your relationship, etc.) stakeholders whose interests coincide with those of your development organization, (b) identify and rank (by relevance, coincidence of interests, etc.) specific stakeholder actions that you mutually desire, and (c) identify and rank (by cost-effectiveness, responsiveness to top knowledge gaps, etc.) the knowledge products and other actionable information that can enable or support those actions.

Some observations and caveats:

  • In the private sector, the desired stakeholder (=customer) action is simple: keep buying your products. In the development sector, desired stakeholder actions are multi-level and more complex. The above steps can be useful for prioritizing across various choices.
  • Enabling or supporting desired stakeholder actions is central to value creation in development organizations. This can be called “external KM” and it is often more important than, or it is what drives, “internal KM” which aims at internal or operational efficiency.
  • Advocacies of some development institutions are not readily understandable by the common layman. UNISDR advocates “disaster risk reduction” or DRR — a concept that cuts across many sectors and disciplines: project design, community preparedness, building codes, land use and zoning policies, early-warning technologies, speed of coordinated implementation across government agencies, basic risk management knowledge among the general population, revision of existing legislation and standards, etc. One cannot simply ask a stakeholder what knowledge it needs, without first assessing its level of awareness and knowledge of DRR. A stakeholder knowledge demand assessment is useful only after a stakeholder had moved from unconscious ignorance (not knowing what they need to know) to conscious ignorance (being aware of what they need to know).

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