Knowledge Management for Health and Development Toolkit: Why KM Matters
Knowledge is a key component of health and development work. With knowledge, we can effectively and efficiently run our health programs, empower health care workers and program managers with the tools they need to do their jobs, and spark creativity and innovation. If properly managed and used, knowledge can have an impact on the quality of health services translating into better health outcomes. Rapidly putting the latest information and evidence into practice plays an important role in our global efforts to save lives.
Many people mistakenly assume that knowledge management (KM) translates into increased use of technology. While technology can play an important role in managing knowledge, people actually play the most central role with processes that support the capture, synthesis, exchange, adaptation, and use of knowledge. These processes are often in play during scientific conferences, because people convene with the goal of sharing the latest information on a certain topic.
The 6th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2011) – which just wrapped up in Rome, Italy – provides a good example of the use of knowledge management practices to improve HIV prevention efforts. At this conference, approximately 5000 people had the opportunity to come together and exchange the latest research on HIV prevention. Leading up to the conference, scientists and other experts captured and synthesized knowledge and then shared it with others (conference attendees as well as those following online) through face to face interactions (presentations, hallway conversations, satellite sessions) , on the conference website (abstracts and ePosters), and through social media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.). This conference – and others like it – offered an opportunity for the rapid exchange of the latest information, best practices, and lessons learned, that can then be put into practice once attendees return to work.
One of the biggest stories coming out of the IAS conference this week has been the results from two PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) studies, which showed that providing antiretroviral (ARV) treatment to HIV-negative heterosexual men and women can reduce the risk of acquiring HIV. Results of such highly complex scientific studies can often be difficult to explain; however, knowledge management systems and processes can help ensure that the latest information –such as results of these PrEP studies –is synthesized, adapted, and shared in a way that is useful for different audiences. For example, as a result of KM activities during the IAS conference, policymakers may discover financial information on the eventual roll-out of PrEP that they could use for planning future policies, while service providers may learn about the safety of daily use of ARV treatment among HIV negative individuals, and can share this information with their patients. Capturing, presenting, and exchanging up-to-date health information helps translate knowledge into practice, which can save lives and improve health outcomes.
This task may seem daunting, but there are existing tools to help you better manage your organization’s knowledge in order to get important information into practice. K4Health’s Knowledge Management for Health and Development Toolkit (KM Toolkit) – created by the Knowledge Management Working Group (KM WG) – brings together a wealth of KM resources in one location. It will help those working in international health and development who are interested in learning more about KM and accessing tools and best practices for conducting KM. It is structured to answer some basic questions: What is KM? Why is it important? How do you do KM? How do you measure it? And, where do you go for more resources? Designed as an extension of the broad range of organizational expertise from the KM Working Group the KM Toolkit broadens the set of resources available to USAID staff, contractors, KM experts, and other public health specialists and service providers. It provides access to hundreds of resources and to prominent KM websites throughout the world. It is structured to encompass all the levels of program planning and implementation for a KM strategy from the elevator speech to monitoring and evaluation.
The toolkit is a product of the Knowledge Management Working Group which is composed of CAMRIS International, CARE, Communication for Change (C-Change) Project, ChildFund International, CORE Group, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, EngenderHealth, FHI 360, Health Policy Project, Institute for Reproductive Health, Georgetown University, IntraHealth International, Ipas, Jhpiego, Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs’ Knowledge for Health (K4Health) Project, John Snow, Inc., Jura Editorial, Management Sciences for Health (MSH), The Manoff Group, MEASURE Evaluation, Public Health Institute/Global Health Fellows Program (PHI/GHFP), Social & Scientific Systems, Inc., University Research Co., LLC, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and WHO Department of Reproductive Health (RHR).
Tara M. Sullivan is Knowledge Management Director at Knowledge for Health and Sarah Harlan is a Program Officer.