Knowledge Management for Development Journal, Vol 13, No 3 (2017)

Knowledge Exchange at UNICEF, from Theory to Practice: Case Study of the Programme Monitoring and Response Initiative

Nima Fallah, Edward Addai

Abstract


The international development sector is first and foremost a knowledge industry. Knowledge management (KM), knowledge exchange (KE) and mutual learning are essential in understanding what does and does not work in development. Using that knowledge to support replication and scale-up of interventions is critical.

KE is one of the key pillars of UNICEF’s Programme Monitoring and Response (PMR) Initiative. The key objective of the PMR Initiative, launched by UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO), is to enhance programme performance through a combination of strengthening real-time monitoring of community health and nutrition services, social accountability, evidence-based programme adjustments, and citizen feedback loops, and peer-to-peer learning within and among countries. The initiative has an integral KE component to strengthen knowledge sharing and foster continual learning by UNICEF, government staff, national communities and other partners in implementing countries.

This case study explores the challenges of sustaining a Community of Practice (CoP) in the development context, and examines the link between theoretical analysis – organizational routines - and actual practices in terms of managing CoPs in an international organization, UNICEF. The importance of the KE element of a regional initiative is reviewed, through the CoP lens. The paper explores how the KE tool supports and reinforces peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and skills development, and draws out lessons from real practices, which could be applied in different sectors, as well as within health and nutrition sectors. The paper concludes that KE facilitated continual learning, adaptation and scaling up of innovation within and beyond the pilot countries of the initiative. Key success factors, challenges, and lessons learned in the context of implanting a KE strategy are identified and documented.

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