Global Health Knowledge Collaborative Presents at ICA Conference
The Knowledge for Health (K4Health) Project plays a rare dual role in the field of Knowledge Management (KM): we help advance and promote KM best practices as a means of improving the effectiveness of development practice, while also helping to demonstrate that KM can also be an effective public health intervention.
In support of the first of these roles, we’ve contributed to the growth of an engaged community of international development organizations working in public health to share best practices and lessons learned in the field of KM. This group, created in 2010 as the Knowledge Management Working Group, has recently renamed itself the Global Health Knowledge Collaborative, and this week it collaborated on a dynamic panel presentation at the 62nd Annual International Communication Association (ICA) conference in Phoenix, Arizona.
With presentations from Theresa Norton of Jhpiego, Rohit Ramaswamy of UNC Chapel Hill, Sara Holtz of Management Sciences for Health (MSH), and Angela Nash-Mercado of JHU·CCP/K4Health, the panel discussed what they’ve learned in building, supporting, and evaluating Communities of Practice (CoPs). I was fortunate enough to facilitate this panel of experts, and came away with some lessons-learned of my own.
First, while CoPs are widely regarded as one of the most effective means of collaboration across geographic boundaries, they are much easier said than done. Whether the communities are internal groups intended to improve knowledge sharing, or collaborations to improve service delivery, or collections of students or even prospective conference attendees, they all require time, effort, nurturing, and inspired leadership. Communities of Practice don’t just happen; they require care and feeding, an investment of time, energy, and motivation.
Second, CoPs work best when they are in support of another effort, rather than just a community for community’s sake. In the ICA presentations we saw examples of how CoPs were used in support of service delivery (Jhpiego), generating interest and engagement ahead of a global conference (K4Health), supporting and enhancing ongoing learning (UNC), and improving collaboration within an organization around specific areas of expertise (MSH).
They require work, but the benefits – for an organization or project committed to learning – outweigh the challenges.
Third, there is a clear need for further research. While all four presenters have conducted analysis into the effectiveness and value of their CoPs, all four agreed that there is much more still to understand. The panel members agreed to develop a research agenda for further study.
The panelists also agreed to reproduce this panel in webinar format later this summer. To be notified about when this event will take place, or to learn more about the Global Health Knowledge Collaborative, visit the Knowledge Management Toolkit and join the discussion.