A common misconception in knowledge management projects is that technology will take care of everything for you. People sometimes think the technology will be so compelling that an instant community of knowledge sharers will spontaneously emerge. But, it doesn’t work that way in reality.

Technology is absolutely necessary, of course, but it’s actually not the most important factor in a successful knowledge management project. The most important thing when launching information management projects is finding ways to connect people to the platform. Well-planned community building and user engagement strategies are key.

But how do you help people engage with information in a productive, meaningful way? How do you build a community through knowledge management?

We have done this in a number of environments, in places where high turnover is a constant. Here is what we’ve learned:

1. Build a community around your information and databases.

You can use your knowledge management systems and shared information to grow your community by ensuring that everyone contributes to and takes from the same database. Make sure that when users share information, they’re not just sharing data, they’re also building connections with other individuals, agencies, and groups who are using the data. This kind of community building is valuable for everyone involved.  When a requirement for new information emerges, community members can find and help one another without needing to be brought up to speed—they’re already there.

2. Create a system that’s compelling and easy to use. Then nurture it.

Don’t just create a system and leave it to run by itself. Make sure it’s maintained so it continues being compelling and easy to use, even as personnel changes.

Imagine you have reorganized your kitchen—ordered all the spices in your cabinets, created specific spaces for all your dishes, pots, and utensils. Then, instead of following that system, you just put things away haphazardly. Before long, you’d be no better off than before you had a system in place.

Keep things organized and clear in your knowledge management system, so your users and community members can always find what they need. Dedicating resources to this task pays huge dividends.

3. Market the system.

It’s not enough to say, “Here’s a knowledge management system” and expect your teams to run with it. Help them understand why they need it and how they will personally benefit from its use.

If it is clear to everyone that your knowledge management system helps everyone stay informed, organized and efficient; preserves institutional knowledge for incoming teams; and builds a community that makes everyone’s lives easier, people will be more likely to get on board faster.

And—of course—personal incentives are a great motivator! Rewarding your teams for using your knowledge management system effectively can go a long way toward making sure everything is running smoothly for both data and personnel.

4. Create processes for onboarding and transitioning personnel.

Part of getting your teams on board with your knowledge management system is providing onboarding and training in its use and best practices. You’ve implemented a system for efficiency—why make it inefficient by expecting your personnel to blindly stumble through trying to use it? As intuitive as you might think the system is, it probably won’t seem that way to new users.

There are lots of ways to get the message out:

        • Conference calls (especially helpful if your personnel are scattered around the world)
        • Trainings
        • Debriefings
        • Documentation

Anything that keeps your information flow dynamic will help ensure an easier transition.

Case Study: Information Continuity Amid High Turnover

In one of our projects, turnover of the staff on the ground and among our knowledge sharers is nearly 100% every year. They were losing much of their institutional knowledge, and effectively had to start rebuilding their knowledge base from scratch every 365 days. As a solution, we developed a system that ensures we meet with key stakeholders from the team leaving and key stakeholders from the team coming into mission. We ensure key information is captured correctly and is easily discoverable by the new personnel. We also provided an intuitive interactive platform based on software most users are already familiar with—a platform that we provide for all of our clients seeking knowledge management.

How little manpower we needed on our side—and how much of an impact it had on the end result—was surprising. This little bit of effort created instant user engagement and brought new team members into the community of knowledge sharers. Over the years, we have maintained excellent continuity of information that has effectively preserved institutional memory through numerous crew changes and made it far easier for new staff to get up to speed.

User Engagement and Community Building Paves The Way Forward

Success in launching systems to provide information continuity are never possible without building a community around this mission, yet community building is often the last thing you hear about in a technology acquisition. When was the last time you heard community mentioned as part of your knowledge management efforts?

We feel that community building is the linchpin of success—far more important than any technology that might be selected—and we’re happy to prove it.


Build your community through knowledge management

Rather than struggling to find experts and organizations who can support your mission, why not leverage our vast network so we can do it for you? We can help build a community around your institutional knowledge, and save you valuable time so that your focus can be on what really matters to your mission.