Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Session Report: Keeping Institutional Memory - Part 1

This session really made me think on two fronts: first, about the methodology used (the fishbowl. See a brief description on the kstoolkit site); and second about trying to approach institutional memory systematically.

The content: we started talking about several initiatives, including a collaboration platform for Human Resources staff, an online country brief intranet platform, and a manual for designing and implementing projects (see: I1004a, F1070 and X1030).

They, and other initiatives that came up, were quite different from each other in various ways (technologies, users, institutional contexts, etc.), but the conversation began to converge on some of the most difficult nuts to crack: how to generate enthusiasm and understanding of potential and actual benefits, how to ensure the content providers you depend on actually provide the content, how to ensure those who do share feel they are appreciated, etc.

I may be wrong, but I felt a real coming together among many participants around these issues and I certainly had a deeper appreciation not only of their importance, but more crucially of the importance of consciously integrating these issues into the design and implementation of knowledge sharing initiatives (in a project context, institutional context, network context, whatever).

We also talked about the fishbowl methodology itself: having a conversation within a group of about 25 people can be difficult, but a fishbowl can keep it manageable so only a few people talk at once, but everyone gets a chance to provide input if they want to. It also helps to get you physically out of the people around a u-shaped table scenario into one that is much more informal and relaxed, and where the energy is focused on the people as they face each other. It reinforces my belief in getting rid of tables as much as possible, and in the power of physical layout to promote interaction and participation. All in all, it was time well-spent :-)

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