Knowledge Management Practices and Challenges in International Networked NGOs: The Case of One World International pp93-102
This paper is based on the outcomes of a study that explored the knowledge management practices and challenges in an international NGO network. The investigation constituted comparative case studies of two centres (one in Zambia and the other in the Netherlands) belonging to a single international network. An empirically grounded framework of knowledge management practices based on the taxonomy proposed by Holsapple and Joshi was utilised as the reference framework for the study. The framework provided guidelines to characterize factors that influence organizational knowledge management; knowledge manipulation activities (processes) and organizational knowledge resources. The results of the empirical study confirm that a variety of factors affect knowledge management behaviours in an organization. These factors include managerial and internal controls such as management styles and incentives for knowledge creation and sharing; resource influences; and environmental influences relating to an organization's culture and the needs of partner organizations. The study highlights important variation in diversity, gaps and perceptions in managing knowledge between centres in the network that are based in Europe and Africa. This is despite significant communality in knowledge management processes and infrastructures. The results further show that institutionalization of knowledge management practices within a network seem to enable or constrain knowledge management at centre and network level. Recommendations are proposed to improve knowledge management practices at local and international level and include enhanced technical and advisory services at international level; capacity building; creating greater awareness of knowledge management; decentralization of knowledge management processes; implementation of a knowledge management strategy at network level and improving relationships between centres. The authors conclude that networked NGO's and specifically OWI could operate more efficiently and incrementally enhance service provision by leveraging their knowledge resources more effectively. It is in this light that knowledge management practices should be examined in NGOs and particularly networks with their complex structures and attendant reoccurring and unavoidable problems.
Keywords: non governmental organisations, NGOs, networks, development, knowledge management, Zambia, Netherlands
The author adopts the premise that technological innovation, a critical factor in the long‑term economic growth of any country, can only function successfully within a social environment that provides relevant knowledge and information inputs into the innovative process. This is dependent on the efficient transfer and communication of knowledge and information which in turn relates to the amount and quality of interaction among scientists and technologists. These factors prompted a research project that used social network analysis techniques to investigate knowledge exchange and to map the knowledge network structure and communication practices of a group of scientists engaged with crystallographic research. This paper is based on this research project. The findings provide clear evidence of a strong social network structure among crystallographers in South Africa. A core nucleus of prominent, well connected and interrelated crystallographers constituted the central network of scientists that provided the main impetus to keep the network active. This eminent group of crystallographers were not only approached far more frequently for information and advice than any of their colleagues, but they also frequently initiated interpersonal and formal information communication acts. It was clear that this core group had achieved a standard of excellence in their work, were highly productive; very visible in their professional community and they generally played a pivotal role in the social network. They generally maintained a high professional profile in the crystallography community and within the general field of science, published profusely, and generally emerged as the archetypal sociometric stars in their field. It is thus clear that high productivity, professional involvement, innovation capacity and network connectivity are intricately interwoven. The crystallographers' work environment and concomitant work structure clearly affected network interaction. Working in a group structure stimulated network interaction, professional activity and productivity. A further benefit was that the leaders of these groups generally assumed gatekeeper roles that facilitated networking and ensured the importation and interpretation of new information and knowledge. It was clear that social networks operate more effectively in areas, such as Gauteng, where a sufficient number of scientists were amassed.