Enabling and cultivating a knowledge sharing network or community can be both simple and complex. Simple because sometimes all the conditions are in place and you as network/community coordinator have to do almost nothing. Complex because sometimes and opposite to the above we as network/community facilitators and coordinators need to do a lot of work behind the scenes before the network/community is useful to its members and the organization.
The FAO 2009 TKN Review revealed the below recommendations for enabling and cultivating networks and communities in and from within the FAO context. Furthermore, a knowledge sharing network/community checklist was developed basing on these recommendations, therefore catering to the context of FAO.
These recommendations are also summarized within this flyer.
- Sponsor from top - Sufficient resources (human and financial, staff development, training) should be provided by managers to create conditions for successful and sustainable knowledge networks and communities. Additionally, managers would need to be aware of the important contribution knowledge networks and communities can make to the organization’s performance, and hence provide not just support, but also encouragement, to staff interested in and wanting to enable and participate in networks and communities. Managers should understand that knowledge networking, to be successful, needs their servant leadership. If they have that awareness and understanding, they will both tacitly and explicitly support working via knowledge sharing networks and communities. In this sense, servant-leadership, or the way of leading that enables and encourages knowledge networking, collaboration and innovation, emphasizes the leader's role as a steward of the resources (human, financial and others) that an organization has. Servant leaders are in essence facilitators, they serve others while staying focused on achieving results in line with the organization's values and integrity. (source: Wikipedia)
- Ensure right blend of membership - The Review showed that successful FAO networks and communities have a mixed and diverse membership. Membership should where possible be at least partly external. While the "membership blend" is important, it does not necessarily account for success. Several informal communities of practice internal to FAO do work well.
- Support demand - Networks and communities should be created as a response to a real and articulated need, rather than in a top-down way. Management should consider the views of staff in this respect.
- Ensure business case - Consultations should be organized with members of the identifiable network or community, to establish the business case for the network/community before any steps are taken to support it and/or design and create technology solutions for it.
- Facilitate continuously - Facilitation should be provided in accordance with the needs of the network. Facilitation is the key in enabling and cultivating networks and in making them successful. In order to be able to do so, more staff needs to be trained in facilitation.
- Recognise that one size does not fit all - Appropriate methodologies and technologies should be selected for different networks and communities. Networks and communities need to have technologies and methodologies adapted to them rather than the other way round. Resources need to be allocated to train staff involved in knowledge networks and communities. Training should be provided in facilitation, essence and nature of networks and communities and choosing and developing the right technology.
- Recognise staff time - Managers should give staff members sufficient recognition for their participation in and contribution to knowledge networks and communities. Incentive mechanisms need to be in place encouraging staff to reach out within and between their units and share information and knowledge in order to learn and work better together.
- Promote - Knowledge networks and communities should be promoted in the organization. If a network and/or community exists and is successful, staff should know about it and understand its value and contribution. Experiences in network/community promotion should be shared among knowledge networks and communities sponsors and facilitators.
- Monitor and evaluate - There should be on-going monitoring and evaluation of knowledge networks. Experiences should be learnt from in order to continuously improve knowledge networking in FAO.