The knowledge sharing approach of the United Nations Development Programme
This paper shares practical experience gained in establishing and implementing communities of practice (CoPs) – referred to as ‘knowledge networks’ within the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – as entry points for our knowledge management initiatives. The paper outlines the history and evolution of CoPs in UNDP, placing them in the broader framework of knowledge management and practice architecture. The paper also describes how CoPs have generated cultural change within UNDP, taking the organisation from a situation in which staff could not send e-mails without clearance by senior management to one in which staff today are rewarded for sharing rather than owning knowledge. In addition, the paper identifies the ingredients of a healthy CoP, successful operating modalities, methods to promote participation and ways to link CoPs to policy outcomes. It also looks at what has not worked: pitfalls to be avoided in establishing and managing CoPs. Finally, the paper examines our experience with adding new procedures and tools to this initially successful approach, such as enhanced collection and codification, which have yielded mixed results.
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