Within international development there has been an increasing interest in knowledge management and knowledge brokering and it has not always been easy to deal with terminology (the K* space holder demonstrates this nicely). However, when faced with holding a workshop bringing together both KB and KM practitioners to discuss the use of indicators to measure both activities, it was necessary to move the terminology debate from the general to the specific and agree on some sort of working definition.
Thus, I am suggesting these working definitions. The KM definition is provided by the IKM emergent programme (with a slight adjustment from my side) and the knowledge brokering definition has been constructed (using the nested functions/roles from the K* discussions) by me. Please find these here:
Knowledge Management: “Any processes and practices concerned with the creation, acquisition, capture, sharing and use of knowledge, skills and expertise [within an organisation] (Quintas et al. 1996) [sic] whether these are explicitly labelled as KM or not (Swan et al. 1999)” (Ferguson, Mchombu, Cummings, 2008, p.8).
Knowledge Brokering: Any processes and practices concerned with informing, linking, matchmaking, engaging, collaborating and building of adaptive capacity (Jones et al., 2012), of two or more external knowledge producers/holders and users/seekers, whether these are explicitly labelled as KB or not
What these definitions immediately highlight is the organisational nature of KM and the sector perspective of KB. In knowledge management, knowledge and information (and data) is managed as a capital resource for the benefit of an organisation. In KB knowledge and information (and data) is shared by reaching across organisations to benefit the sector.
After having assessed this crucial difference one can address some of the similarities that exist. Some of them are listed here:
• Both, KM and KB aim at promoting and facilitating evidence-informed policy making and/or practice. Both try to
• address knowledge gaps.
• KM and KB can both be undertaken by individuals and institutions alike.
• Both, KM and KB, are roles that actors can play at different times.
• At the practical level KM and KB activities and interventions are often similar; e.g. putting in place a knowledge sharing system, developing communities of practice or learning networks, creating knowledge sharing relationships, building a repository of good practice, providing a knowledge advisory service
However, I am aware that many practitioners and theorists would disagree with those definitions. One objection might be that KM has been used more widely (than in the organisational context) in the development sector over the last decade. KM4Dev is sometimes understood to encompass all knowledge related activities in the sector. However, I would argue that this ignores the historical origin of knowledge management and that the term knowledge for development (K4D) sufficiently covers the need for a concept that describes knowledge related issues at a sector level.
Another objection might be that people would use the terms of KB or KM to describe the facilitation of knowledge exchanges between individuals that are situated within their own organisations and external stakeholders. However, I would call these activities simply ‘communications’ (in the case of research organisations/institutes/think tanks this would then be ‘research communications’).
This leads to another objection. What if an individual sometimes carries out research comms and at other times knowledge brokering? I would suggest that actors can put on different hats at different times. These definitions are to be understood as roles; thus, they describe processes and not actors.
These are just three objections. I can think of many more and there are probably plenty more than that. It would be great to hear what you think of these working definitions.
We (Walter Mansfield and myself – with the support of the Institute of Development Studies and the KM4Dev community) are currently running a survey on indicators that are being used to monitor and evaluate knowledge management and knowledge brokering and it includes a question on definitions: please leave your feedback via this survey or in the comments of this blog post. Thank you.
Please find below a link to a survey on indicators for Knowledge Management (KM) and Knowledge Brokering (KB) that will take 5-10 minutes to take part in:
This will feed into a project and workshop which seeks to build an overview of how KM and KB activities are being measured and what indicators are in use.
We would be very grateful for your input in completing the survey and your help in sharing / tweeting (#K4DevIndicators)/ blogging on, and otherwise disseminating this survey within your knowledge networks
This survey and definitions have been produced for a KM4Dev Innovation Fund project and as part of a larger collaborative project between researchers from Loughborough University and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), funded by DFID as part of the Mobilising Knowledge for Development programme. The survey will be used to assist in the development of a workshop on Knowledge Management and Knowledge Brokering indicators to be held on the 8th March at IDS, UK. The results and findings of the survey and workshop will be reported back to the KM4Dev forum and the Knowledge Brokers Forum (KBF).
FERGUSON, J., MCHOMBU, K., CUMMINGS, S., 2008. Meta-review and scoping study of the management of knowledge for development. [online]. IKM Emergent. [viewed 08/01/2013]. Available from: http://content.imamu.edu.sa/Scholars/it/net/080421-ikm-working-paper-no1-meta-review-and-scoping-study-final.pdf.
JONES, H., JONES, N., SHAXSON, L., WALKER, D., 2012. Knowledge, policy and power in international development a practical guide. 1st ed. Bristol: Policy Press.
ORGANISATION OF ECONOMIC CO-OPERATION AND DEVELOPMENT, 2010. Glossary of Key Terms in Evaluation and Results Based Management [pdf] Available at: <http://www.oecd.org/development/peerreviewsofdacmembers/2754804.pdf> [Accessed 08 January 2013].
QUINTAS, P., LEFRERE, P., JONES, G., 1997. Knowledge Management: A strategic agenda. Long range planning 30(3), 385-391.
SWAN, J., NEWELL, S., SCARBROUGH, H., HISLOP, D., 1999. Knowledge management and innovation: networks and networking. Journal of Knowledge Management 3(4), 262-275.