How to use Knowledge Management to strengthen the impact of Evaluation on smallholder agriculture development?

Nema Chosso project

How to use Knowledge Management to strengthen the impact of Evaluation on smallholder agriculture development?

Dear EvalForwad members,

Knowledge management and evaluation are inter-related practices that actually feed into each other.

At the Nema Chosso Project (National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development) in The Gambia, where I work, we have a Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Unit comprising two M&E Specialists, a Data Entry Clerk as well as a number of field assistants spread across the project intervention regions/sites. We also have a Knowledge Management and Communication Unit, managed by a Knowledge Management and Communication Officer.

I  was identified as Focal Point to lead efforts at documenting and capitalizing key successes and lessons, use these to develop knowledge products around climate resilience interventions and ensure they are published in the local press and social media. Attached are two products which we have developed with technical assistance by the West Africa Rural Foundation, an international NGO based in Dakar: (1) Knowledge Product and (2) Outcome Stories.

My experience since undertaking this role of Focal Point is that Knowledge Management and Communication are both critical to Evaluation, especially for communicating the results of evaluations, including the promotion of lesson learning to inform decision making and planning.

However, despite the importance of this role, I find either that the ToR for this officer are too vague in description of key job responsibilities and measurement of effectiveness, or that knowledge management and communication officers have limited capacities in these fields.

The core of my inquiry is:

  • How are your projects, programmes and organizations using Knowledge Management and M&E, in terms of the organigram and work relations between the two? In other words, how does knowledge management and M&E apply to your workplace?
  • I would welcome any experience on capacity development issues and how they can be addressed.

Best regards,

Paul

Dear Ravinder Kumar,

Thank you for your thoughts on the approaches being proposed to better utilize KM in the evaluation and vice-versa. You are right that there are key challenges to succeed with the proposed harmonization efforts.

I think what is fundamental to appreciate is the meaning and purpose of KM within an organization or project/programme unit, and I like very much the way Davenport & Prusak (1998) put it: They define Knowledge as “a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information.” This definition clearly presents an inextricable relationship between Knowledge Management and Evaluation. The purpose of KM is to “...provide a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information”. As such, KM is critical to M&E and the reverse is also true. Like you rightly said, Evaluation data can be used by KM to process knowledge for the organization.

Under the climate resilience incremental financing of the Nema Chosso projects, funded under the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) window of IFAD, we are required to develop knowledge products on best practices, approaches and experiences in implementing climate change adaptation initiatives, one of which has been shared in my initial intervention.

How did we develop the said knowledge products? Based on quantitative data on the interventions (outreach and size of the scheme) M&E identified key implementing partners, stakeholders and beneficiaries of selected interventions, such as mangrove restoration, woodlots and agroforestry, compost making structures, etc. The objective was to share experiences, expectations, key successes and challenges. The participants were grouped according to their interventions (beneficiaries, implementing partners and stakeholders of each activity) to exchange and present on their key conclusions on each of the themes: experiences, expectations, key successes and challenges and lessons learned. The next activity was to identify key beneficiaries and intervention sites for follow-up qualitative data collection, which was recorded on video using a prepared questionnaire. This task was done in partnership with the KM Officer. The findings from these two exercises were then compiled and processed into short narratives with photos as presented. It was then the task of KM to disseminate the publication to the target audience using appropriate channels of communication, as would have been defined in the KM and Communications Strategy of the project. I encourage you to read the Knowledge Product publication shared already.

This is a case where the KM and M&E Unit have worked in close collaboration and resulted in a successful outcome. I think it possible if stakeholders understand and appreciate the meaning and purpose of the KM and M&E, from the perspective discussed. Yes, the two are different in terms of their roles and skill sets; however, their ultimate objectives complement each other. The processes to develop KM products also require input from M&E, as has been discussed. For this change to happen, I think it should start from the point of design and well articulated in the PIM or POM and KM and EValuation Strategy of the Project to guide implementation. As is always the case, the all-important political will is critical to ensuring its smooth implementation, especially by way of supporting capacity building initiatives to ensure not only the KM&E Unit but the rest of the project and its key stakeholders, are brought to speed with the new dispensation.

Once again, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hope this additional comment helps further the discussion.

Paul

Reference

Davenport, T.H. and Prusak, L., (1998), Working knowledge: How organizations manage what they know. Harvard Business Press.

 

 

 

 

Dear Paul and Bassirou,

Thanks for raising very pertinent issues. In my evaluation practice, I have seen KM as either not part of programming or working separately (or shall I say ‘remotely’, the catch phrase now a days!) from M&E function with the twin hardly communicating to each other. Hope and wish success to your initiative /experiment of bringing them under one unit or initiating some form of convergence. As you both acknowledge, KM and M&E have different roles and skills required. Synergies are possible but tensions are inevitable. How these are managed in an integration process would determine how successful and effective it is.  Needless to say that consistent role divisions and clear lines of communication between different members of the ‘one unit’ would be the key. More so as M&E evidence is likely to feed into KM processes. Sometimes KM would be selective in terms of communicating some M&E evidence, which can also create some sticky points for independently minded M&E team members. Sometimes KM would demand ‘stories of success’ from the M&E and programme teams. Conversely, for a M&E and programme team, KM function is crucial for uptake and behaviour change (generally outcome level results), and therefore expectation would be that KM would have the necessary capabilities to relay evidence through user-friendly infographics and other tools, using traditional media, social and new media to reach target audience better. Further, a programme and M&E team would expect that there is consistency and continuation of communication for increasing the staying power of messages and for sustaining the momentum of programme level uptake. KM may perceive this expectation as somewhat undue and so ensuing tension would need to managed. Am sure that you are aware of all these issues and are on course to achieving reasonably smooth convergence of KM and M&E, which nonetheless is a challenging proposition.

Thanks and Best,

Ravi

M. Diagne Bassirou,

Thank you for sharing your experience on how KM and M&E operate together to advance the ultimate objective of projects which is to deliver results and communicate those results to the widest possible stakeholders, beneficiaries and the public.

Your proposition to organize KM and M&E under one Unit is admirable. Under my project, Nema Chosso, the two functions are under separate units and we have learned some hard lessons for doing this. The functions of KM and Communications are assigned to one Officer, which has proven ineffective as the capacities for KM on one hand, and Communications on the other, are require different skill sets. Whilst the Officer is relatively strong on learning he is not so strong in the capitalization of what is learned and is also not well skilled in communicating lessons and good practices.

This is where the project team has to come back to the M&E Team, with technical assistance by a consultant specialist in M&E, KM and Communications to help. As a lesson learned, the M&E System for a follow up project to Nema Chosso is being designed to merge to the two units into one, with provisions to engage a specialized technical partner to support communications.

I also want to appreciate your suggestion that the job of KM & Communications requires wide consultations and engagement with all members of the project team. I want to add that engaging and involving key partners and beneficiaries is also crucial to obtain needed qualitative data and information for evidence-based results, planning and decision making.

Dear Paul,

Thank you for this very appreciated exchange.

I'm a National Monitoring, Evaluation and Knowledge Management Officer in Senegal and perhaps my small experience can provide some responses to the two questions. New profiles are emerging and developing which combine these two missions and this is because there is a close and proved relationship between these two functions.

The GAFSP MMI (Global Agriculture and Food Security Program Missing Middle Initiative) project format I work for is a pilot. The M&E and the KM functions are important for data treatment, capitalization and workshops on lesson learned. In this project, Knowledge Management is a participatory work that includes the members of the Coordination Unit: after the coordination mission, our goal is to decide on the basis of the lesson learning and knowledge capitalization if to scale up the pilot initiative or not and in which way.  

In case of bigger programs or plans composed by many project components, you need to establish a M&E and KM Department with a team composed by the Team Leader, the M&E Officer for data management, the M&E Officer for Knowledge Management and a M&E officer for data communication. More options and formats for the team composition are possible depending on the type of organization.

Bassirou