With a little help from my peers
A short story on an informal get-together of UN Knowledge Management practitioners in Bonn.
For almost one year, Knowledge Management practitioners from UN agencies based in Bonn have been meeting informally. The idea was as simple as the potential benefits: let us talk and see what the others are doing. If things go well, we can exchange ideas, support and learn from each other and build professional relationships on the way.
Well, things went quite well so far. The informal network has met five times between April 2010 and April 2011. At the kick-off meeting, the participants shared what projects they are currently working on, what burning questions they face, and how they would like to leverage the experiences of colleagues working in the same town. Subsequently, the informal KM network organizers – an open group that welcomes new supporters – set up an introduction session on Knowledge Management, an Open Space discussion, a presentation on KM in the UN system and, recently in April , a peer-assist followed by an after-action review. All sessions were based on demands from colleagues coming from various UN-agencies.
At the preparation meeting for the latest KM get-together, the organizing team thought about a set-up that results in practical learning for everyone. Together, the team decided to call for a peer-assist session to:
- Provide the space for a colleague to present a business challenge and receive advice from peers;
- Present a peer-assist in practice to enable the participants to apply the methodology in the future;
- Conduct an After Action Review at the end of the session to demonstrate yet another KM methodology.
The session started with a short introduction film on peer-assists by Bellanet and University of Ottawa Center for e-Learning. The video was followed by a ten-minute presentation of the problem. In essence, the challenge consisted in having a mandate to improve internal collaboration and communication to lastly break down internal silos. Visualizations of the organizational structure were a great help to easily understand the setting and the actors involved. The discussion resulted in concrete take-away suggestions for the colleague and surely provided many insights for every participant.
Lastly, a quick After Action Review was conducted to identify what can be improved at the next meeting, what went well and also to simply demonstrate the power of the methodology.
What have we learned so far? Here are a few insights that could be interesting to colleagues in other duty stations:
- Keeping inter-agency meetings on KM informal does not only allow many colleagues to participate in the first place, but it was identified as one of the main success factors for an open environment to share knowledge;
- A combination of interactive sessions to share knowledge and some sessions with input presentations works well, especially if some of the KM practitioners are more experienced than others;
- Learning by doing: using a set of KM tools and methodologies and asking interested colleagues to co-facilitate sessions is a great way to learn.
Oksana Buranbaeva contributed to this article.
P.S. If you work for the United Nations in Bonn and would like to receive information about our knowledge management get-togethers, send en email to buranbaeva[at]vie.unu.edu. We look forward to welcoming you aboard.