Knowledge for Development: Global Partnership Conference 2017

3 Apr 2017 to 4 Apr 2017
Geneva, Switzerland

[Update] Dr Jovan Kurbalija, Director of DiploFoundation and Head of the Geneva Internet Platform, spoke at the conference, during the panel on 'A multistakeholder perspective', on 4 April, 10.00 – 11.00 am CET.


Event report/s:
Marissa Lopresti

Session 7 of the Knowledge for Development conference consisted of an exercise called 'World Café', which was a discussion based exercise that focused on the different ways in which different peopl

Session 7 of the Knowledge for Development conference consisted of an exercise called 'World Café', which was a discussion based exercise that focused on the different ways in which different people with diverse knowledge  backgrounds  can interpret a question, showing why it is important for knowledge to be shared globally. For this exercise, the room was split up into ten small countries, each with a host guiding the conversation at that country's table. They were given three rounds of questions, the idea being that each diverse group of participants act as though they are sitting in a café somewhere around the world, and they are to discuss and brainstorm on the question posed.  In each round, the participants move to different countries to add their input on each conversation. These are the main ideas that were discussed during each round:

Round 1: What are concrete ways of recognising and integrating local and societal knowledge?

The first things discussed after receiving this question were, 'Do we understand the question?', and 'Do we understand what they mean by local and societal?'. In brainstorming on these questions, participants decided that local knowledge had to do with traditional views and values, geographically. One group talked about local knowledge being one's first source of knowledge (knowledge obtained from school or parents). They then decided that societal knowledge consisted of being able to play a diverse role with people with whom one shares a commonality. The most common response to this question was: one generates local knowledge from their first sources of knowledge, and that local knowledge can then be used and integrated into forming societal knowledge by a diverse group of people with different forms of first sources of knowledge – sharing their own local knowledge within an area of commonality, and then building on that. One group realised that it had a large amount of people who were born in one country and grew up in another. They shared that being born in one place and gaining local knowledge there, and then growing up in another place and gaining a different local knowledge there, made it easier for them to integrate that knowledge into societal knowledge.

Round 2: How do we nurture a culture of “'what it is we do not know'?

The main discussion during this round revolved around 'not focusing on what it is that you do not know'. Many of the groups tied this into the first round’s question and said that integrating local knowledge into societal knowledge forces change within a community by allowing us to understand that the sharing of knowledge throughout different cultures brings forth new unique ideas and solutions that we otherwise 'would not have known we didn’t know'. There was also a lot of discussion regarding how leadership within an organisation deals with this idea of 'not knowing what we do not know'. Leadership that is able to recognise failure and is open to understanding their own ignorance, will allow an organisation to move forward. The concept of the Johari Window (a technique used to help people better understand their relationship with themselves and others) was also discussed, to stress the importance of leadership realising that there are things that their co-workers may know that they do not; therefore knowledge sharing and integration allows an organisation as a whole to grow and build on different perspectives. One group also touched upon the expansion of knowledge by adding the idea that one is more likely to learn something by going somewhere new and seeing/experiencing things that are not a 'norm' for them.

Round 3: How can we 'walk-our-talk' and put the K4D Agenda into practice, integrating our values and our philosophy?

A common first reaction response to this question was that the K4D Agenda is not putting enough focus on the D (development). There is so much research going into how we can reach different parts of the world to share knowledge, yet the only way to improve and develop the sharing of knowledge globally is to focus on implementing the plans formed by the research. It was discussed that one of the main challenges faced in pushing the agenda forward is focusing on having the right people in place in all aspects of the agenda. Participants stressed the idea of working with people who are not specialising in knowledge management, but really know how to drive the development side of the K4D. Building more connections and networks was also a main theme within the discussion. Empowering others to build on already formed developments and knowledge allows for expansion, rather than each individual organisation starting from the beginning, only to obtain what others already know.

Marissa Lopresti

Session 5 of the Knowledge for Development conference, focused on the multistakeholder perspectives to knowledge management and the approaches to knowledge management that multistakeholder institut

Session 5 of the Knowledge for Development conference, focused on the multistakeholder perspectives to knowledge management and the approaches to knowledge management that multistakeholder institutions are currently using and implementing. Some of the main themes discussed included the challenges that each institution is facing in knowledge management, and how their knowledge management plans are developing.

Ms Yordanka Fandakova, Mayor of Sofia, Bulgaria, planned to be present at the conference but due to the recent elections in Bulgaria, she was unable to make it. She sent a statement which included information about her future plans in knowledge management for Sofia. She expressed her belief that knowledge is fundamental for continuous progress in the future and also stated that the Bulgarian government is supporting initiatives to transform Sofia into a modern European city. They have also established a cluster, 'Sofia – Knowledge City' to develop solid management commitment in the city.

Mr Stephan Mergenthaler, Head of Knowledge Networks and Analysis at the World Economic Forum, reflected on a lot of the discussions from the conference’s first day. He spoke about what he sees as the three main shifts when looking at knowledge management through a multistakeholder approach. The first shift he called 'from the core to the edges', which means that we must manage knowledge in order to understand change. He argued that knowledge inherently lives in silos, so in managing we need to think of knowledge as an organism or network, rather than a mechanical thing. The second shift is 'from organisations to ecosystems', he spoke about how there is a false dichotomy of internal and external knowledge; there should be no boundary between the two. The third shift is 'from information scarcity to information overload'. With this last shift Mergenthaler explained that today’s problem is not about managing access to information, but rather the ability to filter out the important information given within the large amounts of information we have.

Dr Jovan Kurbalija, director of DiploFoundation, mentioned the importance of reflecting on the historical precedence of knowledge management in Geneva. He called it the 'knowledge walk', where more than 50% of global digital policy is decided within a 5 kilometre radius of the United Nations campus in Geneva. He spoke about the role Geneva plays, and specifically that of DiploFoundation, in binding together the ICT community with the diplomatic community. The issue related to knowledge here is that the prefix we use, determines the policy narratives that are shaped. We must not dismantle silos. They are here to stay and are not necessarily bad because they create trust within a community; however, having borders around the silos that are too high, is an issue. Those who can think beyond the limits of their silos can create real change.

Ms Margot Brown, director, Global Operational Knowledge Management, the World Bank,  highlighted 3 main points regarding multistakeholder knowledge management:

  1. Knowledge management delivers real benefits to an organisation when implemented by understanding the knowledge inputs and outputs.
  2. Prioritisation is key.
  3. Focus on tacit knowledge. We tend to focus on explicit knowledge, but it is much harder to tap into discussions, opinions, and feelings that happen within an organisation.

In knowledge management you must get the foundations right in order to build upon it. Brown also discussed the main challenges that the World Bank faces in knowledge management; these are a heavy reliance on technology, and an uncoordinated/fragmented legacy system. She said that the World Bank’s knowledge management plan is under development and that the main focus is making the bank’s knowledge easier to access across the organisation as all operations of the bank align with the knowledge for development values.

Ms Mary Susan Abbo, managing director of CREEC K4D in Uganda, focused on discussing the need to develop beyond just head knowledge, and to do this, she explained the three ways in which the Greek philosophers look at knowledge.

  1. Head knowledge: from school
  2. Revelation knowledge: the interaction of physical and spiritual
  3. Participatory knowledge: all knowledge gained has to be put to use

Abbo stressed that she thinks Uganda needs to be working for sustainability rather than handouts, and to do this she explained a simple approach. The core of this approach is that the demand for knowledge and data should be dealt with from the 'ground', while the application of technology must be understood at the 'grass-roots' level. Knowledge and trust are essential to the development of Uganda, as knowledge will help make the country more attractive, practical, and sustainable, in order to facilitate innovation and transdisciplinary solutions.

Mr Bedi Amouzou, founder of Knowledge for Development without Borders, was unable to make it to the conference, and a colleague spoke on his behalf via remote-participation (Skype). She explained that the core vision of Knowledge for Development without Borders is to supply and support the sharing of knowledge and information globally. Another core vision is to bring together other professionals and organisations, and to focus on skills for development training for marginalised countries in need, by providing them access to information and data collection for development.

Dane Burkholder

Session 8 of the 2017 Knowledge for Development Conference was a 'Fish Bowl Discussion', format in which participants provided concluding reflections about the conference.

Session 8 of the 2017 Knowledge for Development Conference was a 'Fish Bowl Discussion', format in which participants provided concluding reflections about the conference. In the middle of the room sat four 'big fish', each was given a turn to speak for a few minutes – uninterrupted. After a few minutes of discussion amongst the 'big fish', the 'fish bowl' opened up to allow input from the 'small fish' that had previously been observing and listening. The theme of the discussion involved concrete building blocks to create a plan of action for the Agenda Knowledge for Development. Participants gave insight into how they can get the agenda off the ground and make it run efficiently and effectively.

Mr Andreas Brandner, Knowledge Management Austria (KMA), began the dialogue by describing his optimism about the progress made during the two days of the conference, congratulating everyone on the friendships and networks they had built. To make a real impact, however, he argued that the agenda needed to encourage decentralised, local, on-the-ground initiatives, that are independent and self-determined, rather than dictated from above. By nurturing the spirit and passion of collaborating stakeholders, the partnerships can share competencies and develop a functioning Knowledge Ecosystem. The most important driver of development, however, must be from local mobilisation.

The next speaker, a professor at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), agreed that these sorts of conferences are nice, but in order to make a real difference, the participants must push themselves outside the comfortable walls of the UN and do hands-on work in field implementation. A representative from the World Trade Organization expanded upon this idea and reflected that in order to make a real difference, you must change the way you think about KM for development. Individual actors must listen, learn, and lead to make the newly inaugurated Knowledge for Development Partnership effective.

In contrast to the more philosophical reflections of the first three participants, the final speaker took a more practical approach to discussing the concrete building blocks needed to make the partnership successful. He stated that organisations should invest in capacity development to determine the needs of local communities, think more about South-South partnerships, and integrate KM into the mainstream mentality of project design.

After this initial discussion, the floor was opened to the rest of the audience. Various individuals underlined the need to expand visions dramatically and continue to innovate, as well as develop, more long-term ways of thinking in terms of deliverable objectives and budget reporting. One of the main criticisms of the event was the lack of meaningful funding provided by participating organisations to other organisations; individuals deplored the fact that no organisation was able or willing to spend anything on programmes informally pitched during networking sessions. This lack of financial co-operation was seen as a potential roadblock for  creating real change through the partnership. Overall, however, the discussion was very optimistic about the future of a coordinated effort to implement KM strategies in development efforts.

Dane Burkholder

Session 6 of the 2017 Knowledge for Development Conference addressed examples of good practices in cross-sectoral Knowledge Management (KM).

Session 6 of the 2017 Knowledge for Development Conference addressed examples of good practices in cross-sectoral Knowledge Management (KM). The session included a panel of representatives from government organisations as well as civil society, each of which addressed three main topics: challenges in implementing trans-disciplinary KM systems, lessons learned, and relevance to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To start the panel, Ms Mariam Itani, UN Development Programme (UNDP), discussed the Arab Knowledge Project launched in 2009, which seeks to promote knowledge for sustainable development in the Arab region. The project’s challenges included the lack of a legal framework for KM in Arab countries, limited engagement from relevant stakeholders, and the difficulty of conducting fieldwork to connect war-torn communities. To address these challenges, the UNDP has attempted to invest in technology that decreases the cost of surveying and build upon the previous efforts of local partners to share knowledge and information. In relation to SDGs, Itani argued that knowledge translates into empowerment, which can be used to solve problems ranging from poverty to gender discrimination.

Mr Ibrahim Seba, United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ministry of the Interior, gave a presentation about their internal KM software. Their goal was to address four main issues: codify skills, transfer knowledge from good police officers to the organisation, manage human capital, and measure knowledge within the organisation. To achieve these objectives, software was developed in which users can search for officers with certain skills, contact relevant experts in various fields, and view a holistic ranking of officers in the system. By quantifying and reporting skill levels, they were able to create a system that promoted accountability and meritocracy.

The next speaker, Mr Florian Bauer, Climate Knowledge Brokers Group (CKB Group), gave insight into his group’s efforts to support environmentally-conscious entrepreneurs in developing countries. The CKB Group works with climate experts to filter the world’s climate research for its partners to use. By connecting the most relevant knowledge to the right people, CKB hopes to leverage the power of KM to fight climate change. The group’s challenges include addressing the diverse range of user needs, as well as recognising that knowledge brokers must act as an efficient link in an often-complicated knowledge chain.

The final three representatives then discussed how their individual platforms aim to connect external entities, rather than simply internal staff. The first, Ms Enrica Pellacani of the European Commission’s (EC) Capacity for Development, described the EC’s platform to connect the development communities of governments, civil society, and private companies around common projects and interests. This user-generated forum recognises the importance of Communities of Practice (CoP), which support collaborative communities through online-educational webinars and shared knowledge. One successful example, the Capacity for Development platform, facilitated the integration of systems between two different UN climate change agencies to form the collaborative Environment, Climate Change, and Green Economy Group.

Mr Richard Bryan-Cox of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) then described his organisation’s Capacity Building Marketplace, which is similar to the EC’s platform but focused on encouraging discussion amongst larger groups of people. The live forum provides links to grants, education, and job opportunities, as well as methods for communicating with other users. In creating this marketplace of ideas, UNCCD emphasised the importance of focusing on the people behind the knowledge, as well as the need for a democratic, institutionalised process of knowledge sharing.

Finally, Mr Neil Pakenham-Walsh, Dgroups Foundation, explained his group’s platform to develop CoPs to set up large, collaborative groups of people. The similarity of this concept to the EC’s and UNCCD’s inspired discussion in the room about the fear of competing platforms of knowledge sharing, which would defeat the purpose of KM’s silo-breaking benefits. Regardless, Dgroups made the case for its platform by describing how over 800 communities (including NGOs, UN agencies, and private companies) have used the Dgroups system to work collaboratively. Dgroups attributed much of its success to its simple, reliable software and its email-based subscription method, which allows it to access a greater audience of actors. 

Marissa Lopresti

The third session at the Knowledge for Development: Global Partnership Conference focused on how organisations measure the impact of knowledge management on the system.

The third session at the Knowledge for Development: Global Partnership Conference focused on how organisations measure the impact of knowledge management on the system. During the panel presentation, each speaker addressed four main questions:

  1. Why do we want to measure the impact of knowledge management?
  2. Are there any recognised approaches to measuring the impact?
  3. What are the challenges of measuring the impact of knowledge management?
  4. What are some good practices in measuring the impact of knowledge management?

Ms Sukai Prom-Jackson, inspector for the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), was the first speaker. She began by enforcing the idea that the concept of knowledge management is loaded, as is its ‘impact’. Governments own impact, while the outcome involves the use of knowledge management in the underdeveloped country itself. Prom-Jackson continued to speak about management for achievement by discussing the concept of integrating lessons learned from past performance on knowledge management decisions. All activities must have an objective because evaluation is systematic and needs to provide justification for improvement/impact of the resources. She concluded by suggesting that there is no universal gold standard: ‘It is not the method that drives the approach, it is knowing what you need to evaluate and how you can do that.’ This involves a social and technical engagement within the parties, specific to the measurement of impact.

Mr Pavel Kraus, President of the Swiss Knowledge Management Forum, spoke about why we measure the impact of knowledge management. His main message was that the measurement of impact is really a question of credibility and delivering on promises. Justifying knowledge management activities allows for continuous improvement and learning.. When discussing the gold standard, Kraus spoke about two different perspectives when viewing knowledge management. The first is the impact knowledge management has on a business processes, including objectives such as: process improvement, increase in productivity, time reduction, and cost savings. The second perspective focuses on the impact of knowledge management activities, including: beneficial propositions, the usage of a knowledge repository, and the percent of activities implemented.

Mr Ulrike Katers, member of the Austrian Court of Audit, offered an external perspective on the importance of measuring the impact of knowledge management. Knowledge management must deliver something to the economy, otherwise there is a question of why the government needs an auditing institution. Katers discussed one of the main challenges encountered in measuring the impact of knowledge management, ‘We live knowledge management every day, so many (co-workers) may not know there is even is a knowledge management strategy.’ As auditors, they must always be ahead of the knowledge curve in their country, as it would be impossible to audit an entity which they do not understand or have previous knowledge of. Peer-to-peer knowledge sharing is the best way for auditors to obtain a high capacity of issues, by bringing people together to share experiences and perspectives. Katers concluded that it is difficult to measure the impact of knowledge management because there are a lot of external factors that also affect performance; therefore there is no golden rule for methodology on how to measure the impact amount.

Prof. Leif Edvinsson, University of Lund, Sweden, and also a part of the New Club of Paris, talked about the concept of societal innovation. Knowledge in the western context is viewed as an ‘object’; therefore, knowledge navigation is more important that knowledge management. Knowledge is a flow, a relationship that needs to be guided. National intellectual capital derived insights of high value, and we need this approach in order to take us into the future. This approach helps prepare for the future of the next generation. Edvinsson also addressed ignorance as one of the main challenges in knowledge management – not knowing what you do not know. Edvinsson then concluded by suggesting that there is a need to integrate much more neuroscience into the subject of knowledge management. 

Marissa Lopresti

Dr Petru Dumitriu started the first session of the Knowledge for Development: Global Partnership Conference, by addressing the main objectives of Knowledge Management in the United Nations syst

Dr Petru Dumitriu started the first session of the Knowledge for Development: Global Partnership Conference, by addressing the main objectives of Knowledge Management in the United Nations system report, by the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) Geneva in 2016. The objectives include: the incorporation of knowledge as a resource of the United Nations system, convincing people that the vision of knowledge management is important to all organisations to prevent the waste of information, the creation of a set of good existing practices and strategies, the stimulation of system-wide dynamics (treat UN organisations individually and allow front runners to help other organisations), the recommendation of concrete actions, reminding stakeholders about the role of knowledge (choices of technology should be knowledge driven), the acknowledgement of knowledge as a silo-breaker, and to show that knowledge management is not a ‘buzzword’, but a realistic policy assumption.

Dr Andreas Brander of Knowledge Management Austria, discussed the Agenda Knowledge for Development Initiative. He began by addressing their vision to ‘make knowledge an indispensable component of an agenda for sustainable development’ and to provide a universal knowledge framework of guiding principles, dialogue, strengthening knowledge ecosystems, and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This represents a multistakeholder partnership of civil society enterprises, academics, and the representatives of governments. Brander then addressed the 13 goals of the Agenda Knowledge for Development:

  1. Pluralistic, diverse and inclusive knowledge societies
  2. People-focused knowledge societies
  3. Strengthening local knowledge ecosystems
  4. Knowledge partnerships
  5. Knowledge cities and rural-urban linkage
  6. Advanced knowledge strategies in development organisations
  7. Capture, preservation and democratisation of knowledge
  8. Fair and dynamic knowledge markets
  9. Safety, security, sustainability
  10. Legal knowledge
  11. Improved knowledge competences and knowledge work
  12. Institutions of higher education to play an active role
  13. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) for all

The next steps in the implementation of the Agenda Knowledge for Development Initiative (which was launched in 2015) will include: the inauguration of K4D partnerships (3 April, 2017), continuing to involve partners through statements and commitments, setting up K4D programmes in a growing number of cities to act as macro-regional hubs, providing and brokering knowledge services to master complex transdisciplinary challenges, creating world-leading transdisciplinary research and innovation programmes, including education and training, and maintaining the global dialogue.

During the Q&A, it was discussed that the UN will only remain relevant if it strengthens its role as a knowledge broker. Some of the main concerns focused on the lack of emphasis on traditional knowledge and the limited involvement of non-OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. 

Dane Burkholder

The fourth and final session of Day 1 of the 2017 Knowledge for Development: Global Partnership Conference was an award ceremony for the 2017 Knowledge Management Award.

The fourth and final session of Day 1 of the 2017 Knowledge for Development: Global Partnership Conference was an award ceremony for the 2017 Knowledge Management Award. The winners included the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) of the UN System and Prof. Leif Edvinsson. This award was launched in 2008, with the aim to celebrate those who have contributed to the field of Knowledge Management (KM), and each year the award is presented by Knowledge Management Austria, to one organisation and one individual. The trophy presented was a miniature version of an Austrian sculpture designed in 2008, called the ‘Column of Knowledge’. The trophy symbolises two types of knowledge: the proven knowledge of the past, and the uncertain knowledge of the future.

Dr Andreas Brander of KM Austria presented the award to the JIU of the UN System. He spoke about the JIU`s achievements in 2016, the most important of which was its substantial report on ‘Knowledge Management in the United Nations System’, which reviewed UN organisations and recommended specific institutional changes to better implement KM. According to Brander, this report significantly influenced the appreciation, awareness, and practical implications of KM implementation in the UN, as well as making KM an explicit part of the UN’s Quadrennial Resolution. Furthermore, in 2016 the JIU went beyond its typical activities by collaborating with non-UN organisations to develop the report. The award was accepted by Inspector Petru Dumitriu, who thanked his team and stated his hopes that the recommendations of the report will make an informative impact on the functioning of the UN.

The individual award was given to Prof. Leif Edvinsson and presented by Mr Günther Koch. Koch described Edvnisson’s many lifetime achievements, including his prolific publications and awards. Among other distinctions, Edvinssson wrote the book Intellectual Capital: Realizing Your Company’s True Value by Finding its Hidden Brainpower in 1997, was awarded ‘Brain of the Year` by the Brain Trust in the UK in 1998; he was appointed professor at the University of Lund in Sweden in 2001, and was listed as ‘One of the most influential thinkers in the world’ by the London Business Press in 2006. Edvinsson’s most recent work focused on knowledge management for small and medium-sized companies, as well as his efforts to promote discussions between public institutions to set KM agendas to facilitate societal innovation. Ultimately, he was chosen for the Management Award for his lifetime achievement in developing the global knowledge society.

Dane Burkholder

The ‘Good Practices in Knowledge Management in the United Nations System’ session at the Knowledge for Development: Global Partnership Conference addressed examples of good practices in Knowledge M

The ‘Good Practices in Knowledge Management in the United Nations System’ session at the Knowledge for Development: Global Partnership Conference addressed examples of good practices in Knowledge Management (KM) within the UN system. The session included a panel of representatives from six UN agencies and examined the successes and failures of the processes they have implemented within their organisations. Throughout the discussion, significant emphasis was placed upon the need for concrete action plans, clear expected outcomes, and accountability.

The first speaker was Mr Nikolai Rogovsky from the International Labor Organization (ILO), who spoke about the evolution of KM within the ILO since its earnest beginning in the early 2000s. The ILO’s KM strategy from 2010 to 2015 sought to coordinate KM methodologies between departments and introduce new techniques in employee training and planning processes. In developing its future KM strategic phase for 2018-2021, the ILO addressed the three main challenges it learned from in its previous measures: lack of consistency in priorities between departments, lack of perceived necessity for knowledge sharing, and a lack of innovative ways of fostering collaboration. To combat these problems, the ILO will use an incremental approach in the future, to slowly prove the benefits of information sharing within the organisation.

The second speaker was Ms Helen Maree Gillman from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). She explained IFAD’s success in creating a broad, flexible, practical system that provided space for KM experimentation within the organisation. This ‘thousand flowers bloom’ approach, as she described it, allowed for a diverse range of KM solutions, that fostered creativity but also required strong leadership from executives to direct these efforts. IFAD has had success in capturing lessons in project implementation to use for future projects, especially through the development of ‘how-to’ guidance frameworks to record the knowledge of experts for future use.

Mr Johannes Schunter of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) then discussed his organisation’s two-dimensional approach to KM involving ‘stealth’ KM vs. official KM combined with ‘squirrels’ vs. ‘Big Bang’. Due to lack of board support for an official KM strategy in 2004, the UNDP implemented the ‘stealth’approach involving informal KM reforms until 2008. From 2009 to 2013, there was finally a push for an official, ‘Big Bang’ strategy which involved across-the-board changes to management structure. However, this path was risky and expensive, and support for these massive changes eventually collapsed in 2013. From 2014 to the present, UNDP has instead taken an official ‘squirrel’ approach, which involves specific solutions to small management issues. After attempting multiple strategies, it became clear to Schunter that without senior backing for significant changes, the KM will be unsuccessful. However, with clear objectives and reasonable expectations, an official KM strategy can be useful for improving internal operations.

In contrast to the ‘Big Bang’ approach attempted by the UNDP, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has taken an incremental KM approach to capture and utilise its internal expertise. In 2014, Mr Ian Thorpe of UNICEF began the process of developing a portfolio to incrementally gather good practices rather than create an explicit overarching strategy. The goal of their KM was to connect staff with others in the organisation, to combine the provision of complementary expertise and facilitate collaboration. This portfolio involved a list of techniques to capture and share knowledge, as well as a comprehensive staff directory that collects data about each employee’s data.

The fifth speaker, Mr Francesco Pisano of the UN Library, took a more theoretical approach to his discussion of KM. He asked the audience to ‘zoom out’ and look at the larger ‘Knowledge Ecosystem’, which allows managers to acknowledge the impossibility of controlling the system,  giving them the opportunity to discover the logic inherent to its functioning. In this sense he argued, having no strategy is better than having a bad one, because no strategy at least allows for greater degrees of freedom and flexibility. More concretely, Pisano explained the Library’s efforts to ‘mobilise’ data and transform the traditionally passive library model into an interactive, data-driven forum. This mobilisation involves organising informational pipelines to allow for a flow of specific material to its target audience, who can then send feedback about the usefulness of the content.

The final speaker, Ms Maria Gonzalez Asia from the World Bank, discussed the role of the Global Delivery Initiative as an open knowledge repository. Launched in China in November 2016, the site has since received 24,000 hits globally. The initiative brings practitioners together through a common methodology, to take advantage of cumulative knowledge; practitioners can report non-technical issues during the implementation of their projects, which is added to the database and connects the individual to others who had similar problems. Through an analysis of big data, the initiative is then able to predict the most difficult delivery challenges in order to streamline future projects

The Joint Inspection Unit of the United Nations system (JIU) and Knowledge Management Austria (KMA) will co-organise the Knowledge for Development: Global Partnership Conference, on 3–4 April 2017, at the Palais des Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland. The conference will be hosted at and facilitated by the United Nations Office at Geneva, and organised in cooperation with several partner organisations: The New Club of Paris, Knowledge Management for Development, Geneva Internet Platform, Knowledge for Development without Borders, and Swiss Knowledge Management Forum.

Knowledge is an essential, overarching element for the achievement of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, and therefore requires the world´s full attention. In this context, the conference is aimed at the review and advancement of knowledge management practices in the field of sustainable development and presenting a new agenda to strengthen knowledge societies and economies for development. It will provide insights in current practices and explore future developments in the use of knowledge management in the area of development. The conference is also expected to contribute to the activation of a global partnership in making full use of knowledge as a strategic asset of the United Nations system in the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goal 17 and the Agenda 2030.

During the event, the JIU will launch its 2016 Report on 'Knowledge Management in the United Nations system'. The best practices highlighted in the report and the ways and means to implement the recommendations made by JIU will be discussed by United Nations’ representatives and partners from the civil society organisations, private companies, academia, and knowledge management professionals. The 'Agenda Knowledge for Development' will also be presented, including the first set of Knowledge Development Goals. This Agenda, initiated by KMA and supported by a global community of thought leaders, brings a new and integrated view on the challenges and opportunities related to knowledge and provides orientation to all stakeholders in the field of development.

Registration for the event is open

For more information, visit the event webpage.



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