Knowledge Management for Global Health

Why is knowledge management essential to improve global health?

Knowledge is one of our most valuable assets to address global health challenges. What we know impacts what we do—and so how we manage knowledge can affect individuals, communities, and, ultimately, the health, social, and economic status of the world.

Global health organizations that adopt knowledge management strategies and practices can strengthen the performance of health care workers and programs. By doing so, they can improve health outcomes and even save lives.

Key Messages

  • Knowledge management helps people turn knowledge into action.
  • Meaningful learning, reflection, and communication can strengthen global health programs and improve health outcomes.
  • Knowledge management tools and techniques range from activities that focus on collecting knowledge, to activities that connect people to that knowledge.
  • Knowledge management helps us work well with others, avoid duplicating efforts and using outdated practices, and routinely share knowledge about what works and what doesn’t.
  • Knowledge management efforts can be scaled. You do not need a large budget or unlimited resources to implement a knowledge management strategy that is systematic, sustainable, and effective. 

Definitions

  • Data: raw building blocks of information (numbers, statistics, individual facts)
  • Information: data presented in a useful, structured, and meaningful way
  • Knowledge: the capacity to act effectively
  • Knowledge management: a systematic process of collecting and curating knowledge and connecting people to it so they can act effectively

Overview

Global health and development work involves a diverse community of individuals and organizations working toward common goals. Groups that are most effective in meeting these goals have systems in place to routinely share critical knowledge, gain immediate access to the latest research, and translate lessons learned into better programs. Knowledge management—the process of collecting and curating knowledge and connecting people to it so they can act effectively—is at the heart of these systems. Knowledge management can improve coordination and enhance meaningful learning, collaboration, and application.

Key Components of Knowledge Management

Most knowledge is created, captured, and shared through human interaction—making it essentially a social act. People must, therefore, be at the core of any knowledge management approach, particularly since so much knowledge is in people’s heads and difficult to transfer to others. People can help cultivate an environment that encourages knowledge exchange and use of knowledge management systems. Processes, both formal and informal, help us capture, and share knowledge, while technological platforms can expedite knowledge storage, retrieval, and exchange—provided they are used in context..

These three components form the foundation of knowledge management.

The Knowledge Management Road Map

The Knowledge Management Road Map is a five-step systematic process for generating, collecting, analyzing, synthesizing, and sharing knowledge in global health programs. The steps include:

  • Assess needs: Understand the context of the global health program challenge and identify how knowledge management may help solve it.
  • Design strategy: Plan how to improve your global health program using knowledge management interventions.
  • Create and iterate: Use new knowledge management tools and techniques or adapt existing ones to meet your global health program’s needs.
  • Mobilize and monitor: Implement knowledge management tools and techniques, monitor their effects, and adapt your approaches and activities to respond to changing needs and realities.
  • Evaluate and evolve: Explain how well you achieved your knowledge management objectives, identify factors that contributed to or hindered your success, and use these findings to influence future programming.

Many of us practice knowledge management every day without realizing it.  When health care providers refer to the latest guidelines on how to treat a disease, they are using knowledge management. When a program manager rolls out a new mobile application to facilitate communication between community health workers and their supervisors, they are all using knowledge management.

What do these approaches and activities have in common? They help global health practitioners share and apply valuable know-how in their work. The results? A stronger health workforce, better health services, and longer, healthier lives.

Topic last updated: December 17, 2018