Stop Duplicating

Know what you do Know Know what you need to Know Know what you don’t know Know where you want to go
4 Timeless Fundamentals which won’t change

Access to or loss of information directly impacts a firm’s operations decision-making,
strategic planning ,and engagement with partners, colleagues, and stakeholders. 
Access also affects a firm’s competitive advantage and its capacity for innovation and growth.

Reading Ms. Sherry’s account of securing support for a ‘field scan’ for a Climate Change and Securityproject
(Stop Funding Duplicative ProjectsSSIR, Summer 2103) brought to mind how Knowledge Services equips organizations with tools and techniques to capture the information captured by the ‘scan’ and avoid duplicating activities or ‘reinventing the wheel’, though on an ongoing, consistent basis.

The push-back and skepticism Ms. Sherry encountered when proposing the ‘field scan’ – funds are better spent on direct programming…─ is, unfortunately, all too familiar to knowledge and information practitioners working in the social purpose sphere. Why spend money on a scan when the resources could be given to deserving NGOs right away?” As Ms. Sherry noted, the scan can be an expensive and time consuming task, though without it succeeding actions do not have a solid base to move forward on. Consider the value brought about by a strategic, well-defined, and funded knowledge services initiative aligned with the organization’s mission when staff can readily access documents instead of endlessly surfing the shared drive, a knowledge audit informs the kinds of information, knowledge, and strategic learning resources and services people require to do their work, how these resources and services are actually used, and how knowledge assets used in the organization are produced (and by whom); and systems are in place to regularly monitor the competitive landscape. The significant value comes from sharing knowledge gained and lessons learned to capture a true realistic assessment of programs and impact of dollars.

As Ms. Sherry began pursuing Climate Change and Security she observed, “we often skip over the fundamental underlying questions: What’s really working—and not? What has been tried before and succeeded—or not, serious gaps that, if addressed would have a positive impact. Where could more money make a significant difference? Had others done similar work that we didn’t know about?” There is no shortage of examples among social purpose organizations funding “projects that mirror other efforts without even knowing it, and missed opportunities to fund work that is crying to be done but unnoticed in our haste”. Commenting on the article Social Entrepreneur Jim Fruchterman, who focuses on technology for the nonprofit sector, noted that he sees a steady stream of new ideas billed as breakthrough and innovative though the missing piece is research to discover the uniqueness of the idea, success/failure rate, discover who else is doing something similar, and to understand and learn from others’ failures. Upfront research as a routine practice can make a tremendous difference in time and resources invested.

This ‘field scan,’ while a valuable investment, was a one-time initiative. As Ms. Sherry’s experience and the benefits provided by the ‘field scan’ demonstrated, this is an ongoing problem that the information gaps illuminated by the Climate Change project occur on an ongoing basis throughout the social sector. Consider the value of embedded practices and techniques to effectively enable the organization to identify, capture, organize, access, share and reuse their information and knowledge – the right information gets to the right people at the right time to make the right decisions. This inevitably serves to reduce redundancy along with other wasteful, time-consuming, and costly practices.

The saga of the Climate Change and Security project offered an enlightening account of how easily projects at all levels can veer off-track when capturing critical information is not a priority. An apt comment from Daniel F. Bassill, Founder of Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993, and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC , who chided SSIR for “the growing emphasis on collective impact in articles on SSIR, yet the knowledge that supports such efforts needs to be collected and maintained on an ongoing basis.”

Capture what people know. Discover untapped potential in the form of hidden knowledge about partners,
relationships, experience and technical issues

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