Applying Knowledge Management Tools at Work -SDC staff members share their experiences (2)

August 16, 2011 bit-wartung Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences

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Corinne-SprecherAs in her  first post (cf. 17 July), Corinne Sprecher, Agridea/Team International, went to further look for champions  who consciously apply knowledge management-tools in their work.  In this article she relates and reflects on experiences  regarding learning from one’s own experience. 

by Corinne Sprecher

In this second post, SDC staff members share with us some more of their experiences and lessons of applying  Knowledge Management Tools in daily life. This time the focus is laid on learning from one’s own and others’ experience. (more…)

Experience documentation on e-discussion campaigns with consolidated replies: A dlgn learning project on donor support for local government finances

August 02, 2011 Adrian Gnägi Methods & Tools

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Bertha Camacho for sdclanAdrian picture for sdclan

by Bertha Camacho and Adrian Gnägi

Solution Exchange pioneered a structured way to conduct e-discussions, called “e-discussion campaigns with consolidated replies”. The structure of those e-discussions looks like this:

  • A query is posted on the e-forum of a network and experience carriers are invited to post replies within a pre-determined time frame. Frequently, the moderator supports members with the wording of the query, making sure the query is short, easy to understand and appealing to be answered.
  • Moderators lobby experienced network members to post replies in the e-forum. This lobbying is worked mostly over the phone. According to Solution Exchange, it is the major time investment of the e-moderator.
  • When the discussion campaign is over, the e-moderator sums up the discussion in a “consolidated reply”. The e-moderator condenses the main messages into an easy-to-understand analytical summary and includes all individual contributions in full into the document.

This post reflects on the first “e-discussion campaign with consolidated replies” conducted by SDC’s “decentralization and local governance” network (dlgn) (more…)

Good & Modern Working Aids: What does that imply?

May 31, 2011 bit-wartung Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences

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Michèle Marin

By Michèle Marin

Are you about to plan a new working aid or revising an existing guiding document? Are you trying to figure out what a “good and modern” tool is all about and how it is best elaborated? Find lessons, recommendations and inspiration for innovative products based on a recent exchange among SDC Focal Points and LerNetz AGThere are always sufficient reasons for reflecting on adequate formats of guiding documents and working aids  in the international cooperation context: The existing formats have been developed in a particular political and institutional context, responding to concrete mandates and contextual challenges at a specific point in organisational or political history.
Are the traditional formats still the right answers to the challenges of today? Are we making best use of our technological infrastructure to design learning and communication? And,  what will be an adequate format by the end of often lengthy production-processes in  fast changing contexts? Several SDC networks are about to review their existing technical guiding-documents and check them for accuracy in contents and format. With a recent revision of competencies the responsibility for working documents is laid into the network’s hands, while the corporate provisions regarding format, volume and design have been loosened. (more…)

Learning & Networking News (March 2011)

March 01, 2011 bit-wartung Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools

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Learning from our and others’ mistakes is – we know it since our primary school teachers first told us – one of the most effective ways of learning. Admitting failure however is never easy, and it certainly is not in the development cooperation world. Donor agencies are restrained to publicly talk about unsuccessful programmes by fiscal responsibility, political pressure and fear for their international reputation, NGOs do not want to put financial support at risk by admitting something did not work out quite as planned, and even down to the very individuals working in our sector who for career reasons do only reluctantly (and certainly not on record) talk about the less successful parts of their projects, this pattern repeats. Due to this lack of exchange about mistakes, the same mistakes are made over and over again, and innovation does not happen where the foundation for it would have been present for years.

The recently launched website Admitting Failure, conceived and created by the Engineers Without Borders Canada, is an attempt to break with this veil of secrecy. Development workers can submit their “failures” and browse the failures of others in order to benefit from the bad experiences that need not be repeated. (more…)

Scaling-up and replication – seen through “learning lenses”

February 16, 2011 Manuel Flury SDC Experiences

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Manuel picture for sdclan

  By Manuel Flury







I     A Peer Assist Workshop in Sarajevo – Learning with partners

In a three days workshop in Sarajevo in April 2009, the programme staff of the SDC Country Office met with colleagues of three partner organisations. The Cooperation Strategy 2009-2012 for Bosnia and Herzegovina focuses on capitalizing on acquired expertise and to profit from past investments made and strategic assets accumulated. Capitalising and documenting experiences has been the rational of the workshop. It looked at “disseminating” project achievements in a “new way”: to promote and to facilitate learning and change on larger levels of the society (scaling-up) and/or in comparable contexts (replication). The peer assist allowed the participants to learn from others: how can they facilitate societal change in their fields of primary health care, water resources management and municipal governance and administration. 

There was consensus:
Facilitating societal change – learning from project experiences – requires time and patience and a high degree of professionalism in facilitating process and harmonisation among actors. (more…)

Curiosity – a basic ingredient to learning

December 30, 2010 Manuel Flury Learning Elsewhere

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“Let children choose! They will choose the most difficult tasks. The moment they are promised a reward, they will opt for the simple ones.”




Matthias Binswanger, a well-known economist and professor at a Swiss Technical University has been interviewed by the Swiss weekly newspaper  “WoZ” (in german) when he talked about meaningless competition and the effects such incentives may produce.

Let the collaborators develop and use their own curiosity (for learning) and limit bureaucratic obligation to the max.

We wish you a happy new year!
Manuel Flury, Michèle Marin, Adrian Gnägi, Tobias Sommer 

Social Reporting on Training “The learning SDC Mongolia country program”

November 23, 2010 Adrian Gnägi SDC Experiences

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Adrian picture for sdclan

By Adrian Gnägi
Social reporting is a new approach  in reporting about events. Its purpose is to overcome some of the well-known knowledge management shortcomings of normal reporting:

  • After an event, participants usually go back to their busy routine and, even though they might have planned to do otherwise, end up writing their reports with considerable delay.
  • When the reports finally are distributed, the event has somewhat faded away already and interest is often rather low. Reports frequently are not taken account of.
  • Reports typically come in the form of texts. Busy people increasingly are reluctant or unable to take up written information. Reports often end up unread in files or archives.
  • Reports are often one-sided. They are written by organizers, moderators, or individual participants, but the full flavor of different perspectives, insights, and judgments present during the event is missing.

With social reporting, reports are being 

  • produced during the event,
  • by different authors, 
  • published immediately on the web, and
  • using many different reporting formats like interviews, video testimonials, blog posts, pictures, audio recordings, power point presentations etc. – including of course texts.

Social reporting can be used whenever there is an interest by a broad audience to get information about the event. (more…)

Awarding “good learning”

November 17, 2010 Manuel Flury Methods & Tools

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Manuel picture for sdclanBy Manuel Flury
The Knowledge and Learning Processes Division of SDC intends to award a prize for “good learning” to collaborators of the organisation. For that matter we launched a debate in the km4dev community seeking examples of “good learning practices”. Besides of many proposals, documented learning from failures was proposed.
After visiting colleagues at their work place and getting to understand how they learn in their daily practice we became aware of the importance of self-initiative, of the key role of superiors to let them do what they intend to do and of the transformative power of such individual initiatives for the whole organisation.
Good learning combines “doing things better” and  “transforming the way, things are being done”, i.e. the individual and the institutional aspect of learning.

The original query to the km4dev community: What is “good learning”?


11 Questions for… Roland Anhorn

November 10, 2010 bit-wartung SDC Experiences

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Roland AnhornIn our new series “11 Questions for…” we ask people from in and around SDC and the KM world the same 11 questions. Our goal is to offer insights into different working methods, different ways of looking at individual and institutional learning, and different ideas and opinions on how to make organisations more efficient… And, along the way, to hear interesting stories and experiences our interviewees have in store.

Our first interviewee is Roland Anhorn, Senior Advisor at the Africa Division of SDC’s Humanitarian Aid and SHA Directorate. This interview is not only the series’ premiere, it is also the first ever article on our blog in french, paying tribute to the multilingual nature of our organisation and the global environment we work in. To our english-only-speaking readers: don’t worry, we will continue to post the vast majority of our articles in english, but for interviews we like to leave the choice of language to the interviewees. To our french-speaking readers: enjoy! (more…)

The Black Box of Governmental Learning – A Conversation with Raoul Blindenbacher

October 13, 2010 bit-wartung Learning Elsewhere

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sdclan_bigBy Tobias Sommer
Good governance is one of the keys to contemporary development cooperation: It is considered the magic solution that allows developing countries to make the big step ahead. It sounds simple—yet it is obviously complicated to achieve. It needs the political will to promote good governance through possibly far-reaching reform, the knowledge about how to do it, and especially that governments learn from their own or others’ experiences. Just providing information and instructions to governments does not suffice for this: They also have to transform the acquired knowledge into action. Unfortunately, this crucial transformation process is far from understood. After all, a government, with its complex composition of actors and political environment, cannot be expected to learn and behave like an individual or an ordinary organization.

In the recent World Bank publication The Black Box of Governmental Learning (Executive Summary PDF), Raoul Blindenbacher1 (in collaboration with Bidjan Nashat) sheds some light on this question. I had the opportunity to talk to Raoul Blindenbacher (RB) and get some answers to questions that had emerged while I was reading his book. (more…)

Event: 3rd Symposium Network Savoir – 28 October 2010

October 04, 2010 bit-wartung Methods & Tools

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Private and public enterprises lose precious knowledge when experienced workers leave. What practical and well-tested methods exist that allow to capture these treasures of knowledge and experience, and thus to stay competent in times of organisational change?

This is the question addressed at the 3rd Symposium of the network savoir, organised in cooperation with the Swiss Knowledge Management Forum (SKMF) and – ICT Cluster Bern under the heading


Knowledge Management in Action (more…)

Sketching at Work: How Drawing Together Instead of Presenting Improves Knowledge Sharing

September 29, 2010 bit-wartung Methods & Tools

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Roland PfisterIn today’s guest post, Roland Pfister from the =mcm Media & Communication Institute of the University of St. Gallen writes about the downsides of using PowerPoint and pre-printed handouts as collaboration tools in meetings. He explains how new sketching concepts can stimulate systematic, collaborative and creative thinking in meetings, and illustrates this with the example of the Root Cause Iceberg sketch, one of 35 sketching templates presented in the guide “Sketching at Work” by Martin Eppler and Roland Pfister. (more…)

The Train4Dev Learning Events in a dilemma: from training to capacity development

July 29, 2010 Manuel Flury Methods & Tools

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Manuel picture for sdclanBy Manuel Flury
Through the Train4Dev network so called Joint Learning Events are organised. They grew out from training development agencies’s staff on issues such as Poverty Reduction Strategies, Pro Poor Growth and Sector Wide Approaches. There is a deliberate shift from one-moment trainings of individual staff members to placing these events into a process of capacity development of partner organisations such as Civil Society Organisations and Governments. Learning events link up with particular policy reform processes. The demand for a learning event would not anymore stem exclusively from the donor agencies, it would as well reflect partners’ interests. Train4Dev finds itself in a dilemma of promoting joint learning with country partners and in the same time providing the format, the orientation and the resources of the events. The format of the Joint Learning Initiatives need to be negotiated and jointly agreed among al the partners, this is the challenge for Train4Dev and the Joint Learning Events. (more…)