Patrick Harvey, HR Manager of Caritas Malta, on the 19th and 20th of September participated in a workshop on Knowledge Management in Prague. More than 20 people from different Caritas Organisations in Europe, attended the workshop facilitated by expert Ruth Jolly. The event helped all participants to understand better how to share knowledge inside their organisations and in the whole network.
The discussion about sharing knowledge is one of the most significant in our contemporary world. We have the tools to move data and information around quickly but, still, we ask ourselves: how can we move knowledge in a practical way inside a network or an organisation? How can we make sure that relevant knowledge gets to the right person in our organisation at any given time? If a person leaves, how do we keep his relevant knowledge and know-how inside the organisation?
With the help of knowledge management (KM) expert Ruth Jolly who has worked in international development and human rights for over 25 years, Caritas Europa organised a knowledge management workshop last 19-20 September in Prague. 20 people from different European Caritas organisations came together to learn and share good practices under the expert eyes of Ruth who motivated them to be pro-active and to understand what KM is and why it is so essential for Caritas.
So, what is knowledge management?
A formal definition could be this one; “A systematic approach to generating and recording knowledge, and making it available to others when they need it, in formats that are useful and relevant”. In a few words as underlined by Jolly: “Right knowledge at the right time for the right people”.
Thanks to the approach of the facilitator the participants were encouraged to discuss actively about the benefits and the costs of good knowledge management.
“KM is all about people, relating, flow and acting on experience” this is why the chance to be together in Prague helped to create human connections which are at the basis of sharing knowledge.
After a discussion about what KM is the group started to focus on practical issues to understand better how to make knowledge management work properly inside their organisations and between them.
One of the insights received was about Communities of Practice. CoP are “groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an on-going basis”. (Wenger et al., 2002).
The participants looked into the benefits but also at the pitfalls to avoid regarding CoP.
At the end of the second day, Ruth Jolly invited the participants to make an exercise, she asked them to present how they wanted to move from “here” (where the organisation is today in terms of knowledge sharing), to “there” (the place they would like the organisation to be) using their imagination and trying to visualise it the best way they could.
The results were diverse and stimulating, Andrij Waskowycz president of Caritas Ukraine imagined his organisation as a wonderful garden during the night. There are many beautiful things but hidden in the dark, he wanted his organisation to be the same garden but with the daylight to make all those beautiful things visible.
Francesca Frezza from Caritas Internationalis imagined her organisation to be a train station where people actually meet, feel and live but just for a short while, then everyone leaves with his/her luggage which has been closed for the all the time. She wanted to move to a place where the people from the station could gather, open their luggage and start to build something together.
Maybe Caritas is still too similar to the train station, but events like the one held in Prague and most of all the will to build something together will help us to create a better environment where the “Right knowledge at the right time for the right people” can be easily shared.