Thursday, November 18, 2010

Summary of World Café discussions on good/best practices identification, codification

FAO's Steve Katz facilitating World Café session on Good Practices
One of the KM/S methods we struggle with is the capture, sharing and use of good practices. At the UNKFair, Steve Katz facilitated a World Café session to discuss issues around the topic. We were divided into two groups. The first group discussed the following questions and this is a brief summary of their outputs.

A practice is a replicable action that you can use in your own work environment. Good practices are results that are replicable, from which we can learn and has benefits (operated in a value system and without harm to a community). A good practice can be identified by the community itself and/or an expert panel (could involve different stakeholders). The expert panel could also be involved in designing guidelines for identification/capture, etc.

The target audiences (users/beneficiaries) for good practices can be identified on a case by case basis. In the first discussion, they were identified as basically everyone ranging from decision makers to programme designers and from operational staff to academia/researchers. What we need to look at is our sharing demand or supply driven – what do which users want? If sharing is demand-driven, we need to make sure that the beneficiaries know about the knowledge we can provide to them. In relation to this, one participant asked if we need to advocate and create demand ourselves. Our own organizations were also identified as users of good practices – taking examples of what worked in a country/project and applying it to a similar problem.

As the participants were from UN organizations, they identified the following roles for the organization as:
  • facilitate the identification, analysis, capture, coding, storage, sharing/diffusion and ensuring good practices are converted into policy implementation of good practices
  • assess demand and raise awareness about the availability of the knowledge and ensure local experiences are shared globally
  • know where to replicate what at the right time, supporting south-south collaboration
  • provide normative support – in terms of definition and guidelines – around good practices
  • provide technical assistance and, where appropriate, support capacity building in all or most of the above activities so that stakeholders and partners also learn about the importance of and methods for capture, sharing and reuse of good practices
A very regularly asked question around good practices is also its quality. There was no clear checklist for that but most agreed that it is easier for technical organizations such as FAO to identify them through its projects and activities.

Given that we have identified a good practice, the participants identified the following mechanisms and formats for sharing them.
  • Roster of experts
  • Events - knowledge fairs, trainings, workshops, study tours, farmer-fields schools, etc.
  • communities and networks
  • publications – reports, briefs, posters, magazines, etc.
  • Multimedia – photos, videos, audios
  • mapping/sharing within UN/our own organizations what we know
  • creating knowledge sharing culture in the organization and highlighting success stories
  • Media – TV, Radio, etc.
  • Share/embed them through educational curricula – schools, universities, etc.
  • there are many challenges in the actual identification and capture of good practices, some of which were noted as:
  • how we match the demand to supply
  • identification and codification
  • loss of context
  • knowledge loss when short-term staff complete projects
  • trickling up of good ideas and examples
The challenges continue even after the identification such as:
  • language coverage and translation
  • technical language of the content
  • identification of potential beneficiaries and challenges to reach them (ex. putting info on the net for decisions makers who don’t use internet is not a correct approach)
  • not correct format/package – we need to ensure that we have right format for right person
  • political will and support
  • document lessons learned from application of good practices so that they can be improved and become live
  • NIH – not invented here syndrome
  • first hand knowledge of those who share is missing for those who apply
  • bandwidth and access of online information issue
  • feedback mechanism to see who is using a good practice, how and if they have new lessons learned
  • institutional arrangements to share knowledge and adapt good practices
  • lack of follow-up/feedback strategy from pockets of innovation to the users of good practices
We briefly touched upon the issue of up-scaling of good practices and some ideas came out as:
  • use multiple channels for innovation and adoption (which costs resources)
  • provide incentives to adopt
  • focus resources on early adopters
  • form peer group – networking/communication
The success and impact can be measured through planning and allocation of resources for monitoring and evaluation.


Ian said...

Gauri - thanks for capturing this very rich discussions. I wish I had been there as this topic is very dear to my heart.

A couple of additional thoughts:
In UNICEF we have had a lot of discussion around whether practices that have worked well, but in only one context can really be called "good practices". We decided to use a scale of practice based on the amount of evidence we have on how/why they worked and on how much we know about their replicability.

We have "innovations", "lessons learned" and "good practices" in order of increasing evidence/experience with their use.

Unknown said...

Yes, Gauri, as usual, thank you for doing such a good job of sharing your learning. I find the term "good practices" and Ian's focus on a 'scale of practice' much more useful than the more common 'best practices' that infers 'one size fits all'.

Stonelli said...

Thanks Gauri!

There is another "scale of practice" which was suggested by Dave Snowden: best-good-emergent practice - depending on the kind of issue/system. If the issue is a simple one, then there an be a best practice. If it's complicated he talks about good practice, because there is not a single way which is the best. If the issue is a complex one, then no practice can be good a priori: Every replication will result in a unique outcome, so a good practice in one case can become a bad one when replicated in another situation.

He describes this in his article on the CYNEFIN framework: and his article "A Leader's Framework for Decision Making" in the Harvard BR. He also profoundly analysis the problem with the currently wide-spread use of best practice in his article "Managing for Serendipity
or why we should lay off “best practice” in KM".