In July 2008 the Institutional Knowledge Sharing (IKS) Project commissioned RE4D.net to conduct an independent evaluation of the first phase (2004-2006) of the Knowledge Sharing project. This study assesses the results of the four pilot activities, illustrates the systemic impact of the project, and presents lessons distilled from the combined experience of KS professionals in six CGIAR centers.

The study used semi-structured, open-ended telephone interviews to gather feedback from 14 CGIAR staff and consultants who were involved in the first phase of the KS project or undertook similar initiatives at the same time. This anecdotal feedback was then categorized, allowing for a meaningful analysis of the benefits of the KS project and the challenges it faces.

The study issues three major recommendations:

1. Common front for change initiatives
The various initiatives promoting innovation, learning, KS, and change in the CGIAR should develop a common advocacy strategy enabling them to insert key messages into organizational development processes. The aim of this strategy should be to generate commitment at the top end of the hierarchy to those interlinked issues in order to increase impact.

2. Show benefits better, specifically for senior scientists
The challenge for the KS community is to lower the threshold of KS for first-time users and to change the perception of KS as time-consuming. Furthermore, senior scientists are a powerful constituency with the potential to obstruct new KS initiatives. They often have little to gain from KS and other participatory techniques because they already have a voice and a network. To increase senior scientist buy-in and therefore impact the impact of KS, the KS community needs to make more obvious to senior scientists the benefits of the initial investment.

3. Work on definition
The KS community should invest time to define the fundamental concepts of knowledge sharing so as to create a specific body of knowledge on KS and establish it as a separate discipline.

10 Key Lessons summarize the project learnings that have been reinforced and worked upon since then in project phase 2.

  1. When introducing KS, start with a small project and with people willing to experiment. Getting early wins and finding the right people in the right context is important.
  2. A successful intervention needs funds as well as explicitly mandated staff with the right skills and enough time to do the work.
  3. Without a specific focus, a KS initiative will grow beyond what is feasible to manage. Setting the initiative’s scope is important.
  4. KS enables us to pay attention to how we interact with each other and creates spaces where people can be heard.
  5. Formulating strategies using KS principles, tools, and methods allows staff to engage in the process and gives them a sense ownership of the results. This in turn ensures continuity in institutional cultures and facilitates the management of change.
  6. To successfully communicate KS principles and methods to scientists, practitioners need to show how KS can contribute to their research organization’s objectives.
  7. KS works best when applied simultaneously at the grass roots and the leadership level. Senior management buy-in is critically important for integrating KS principles, methods and tools into meetings.
  8. KS tools are not enough. To be successful, the KS Project needs champions to advocate for it and continue the work.
  9. It is important to build institutional capacity in KS principles and methods. In-house expertise will increase effectiveness of meetings and lead to mainstreaming KS within the institution.
  10. KS works best when it is integrated into the organization’s overall business plan, alongside communications and other activities, not as a separate department.

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