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.