“Good practice” or even “best practice” are ubiquitous terms in international cooperation, commonly designating one of the keys to successful development work. In SDC, particular network-structures for learning in thematic domains have been conceived to continuously “develop Good Technical Practice”. Yet, what does this mean at all? With today’s article the SDC Knowledge and Learning processes division introduces a new electronic working aid, meant as practical guidance for new SDC-staff, as resourcekit for more experienced ones.
By Michèle Marin
“Good practice” or even “best practice” are ubiquitous terms in international cooperation and the running issue of any Learning Organisation. In SDC, particular network-structures have been conceived to “develop Good Practice” in selected technical areas (e.g. Water, Gender, financial management etc.). Commonly designating one of the keys to successful development work, it is yet hard to seize what the notion implies. Often used in relation with technical competence in a particular thematic area, e.g. the “how to do” in agriculture, it can equally designate more general procedural and methodological quality of interventions.
In fact, the buzz word hides quite a story – let me illustrate it by one…
…The Story of the Chowdhuries or What good practice is all about
“Find out what works well and apply it. Learn from others, share your experience. Make sure the necessary capacities are built and know-how handed over in good times.”
This epilogue of the story in the audio-comic above summarizes what we understand by Good Practice in the context of organisational learning and knowledge management.
The story further illustrates that developing Good Practice is not a once-and-for-all activity, but – more technically speaking – a continuous learning loop backed up by organizational measures, where technical skillfulness and methodological and procedural quality go hand in hand. In this sense, developing Good Practice can be translated into 4 core elements or tasks, as depicted in the graphics.
Imagine the four elements as complementary “stations” to be implemented in a balanced way. Each of the stations covers a variety of sub-tasks (“steps”). Let me summarize them below:
Identify and Adapt “Good Practice”
Finding out what works and why naturally go hand in hand with adjusting one’s own practice. There never is a point “zero” in “Good Practice”; action precedes reflection. Identifying and adapting “Good Practice” can be described as 5-step procedure:
- learn from our own experience;
- learn from others
- raise research results;
- infuse innovation and scaling-up;
- formulate sector policies.
Perform “Good Practice” in operations
The main objective for working on “Good Practice” is quality performance in operations, strategic partnerships, and policy dialogue. This means that experiences, international state of the art, and organizational priorities are to be reflected in what the organization does.
Working according to “Good Practice” includes:
- using/applying sector analysis instruments;
- basing interventions on sector impact models;
- using process and product standards for planning, steering, and reporting;
- securing competence in action;
- translating operational experience into partner dialogue and policy influencing.
Anchor “Good Practice” in the organisation
Sound organisational support is required to ensure that “Good Practice” enhances cooperation quality in the long run. The following 4 steps help anchoring “Good Practice” in the organization:
- create and nurture exchange venues;
- include reflection- and learning steps in business processes;
- secure knowledge with staff changes;
- document relevant experience and make it accessible
Form “Good Practice” through Staff
“Good Practice” is threatened by both, skills-erosion and “copy-pasting”: staff not being able to do what their predecessors were able to do, or staff mechanically applying transferred recipes. Practice must go hand in hand with shared reflection in order to grow good and better. Staff needs to be sensitized and empowered to make the grade. “Form Good Practice through staff” implies 4 steps:
- secure individual learning and sharing tasks;
- develop participatory learning- and advisory skills
- strengthen e-communication and e-collaboration skills;
- support capacity development with partners.
Developing Good Practice in SDC: The working aid
SDC has a rich experience in implementing the diverse steps above. Yet, orientation is not evident: What has proved effective and why? What practical tools are there?
Striving to promote organisational learning in general, and give guidance to SDC networks in particular, K&LP division has condensed institutional and operational knowhow and developed a methodological working aid. For each station and step above it provides explanatory text, methodological recommendations and tools, illustrated by examples.
The audio-comic presented above provides a soft entry point to the issue ( also downloadable as full comic strip)
The Working on Good Technical practice in SDC provides for multiple usage, as
- an introduction and guide to learn about the Good Practice-Loop in SDC;
- a resourcekit when in search of recommendations to particular step.
- a virtual workbook to elaborate particular steps hands on, e.g. in network-groups, on the integrated Wiki-like working space (“logbook”)