Monday, July 20, 2015

Three tools to support communication and learning in a KM project

One of the projects that has kept us busy over the past 15 months is the support and facilitation of KM activities in the Building Demand for Sanitation (BDS) programme. The project has different components and activities and, from its inception, we looked at how technology could support communication and learning in and around the project. This blog post will provide a quick overview of three of the tools that we’ve been using in this KM project.
BDSKM blog - click to enlarge

3 simple principles for technology selection 

But before we go into technology, here are some of the principles that guided our selection of possible digital tools:

  1. Know your audience. We engaged with grantees in the early stage of the project, to understand their current behaviours in terms of information, knowledge sharing and communication. 
  2. Tools follow functions. In one early meeting in the process, grantees defined specific KM activities they were interested in. From this, we mapped out a series of possible tools to be used, selecting the most appropriate and accessible. 
  3. Private and public spaces. While we tend to favour the creation of ‘open’, public online spaces there was a specific need in this project for two kinds of spaces. The first is a more protected space, to enable people to share tentative or critical ideas that they would not like necessarily to share in a more open space. At the same time we wanted other spaces that are more public, to be able to interact and engage with a larger online audience. 

Tech overview

To support and enable communication and learning, we opted for a simple, straightforward digital system using 3 tools:

  • A Wordpress blog - Publicly available at, this simple blog is the digital home for the project. It offers different online spaces, such as the Curated Updates, which are openly accessible for anyone on the Internet. Other pages, such as the KM Talks and its subpages, are private, only accessible to the core project participants. In these private pages, participants share their reflections about learning from the project, and learning about the way they learn
  • A Dgroup community - With membership by invitation only, it includes again just the closer circle of participants directly involved with the project and the KM support team. The Dgroup is key in supporting different types of communications in the project: from informal information sharing between group members, to facilitated and focused e-discussion on specific questions, to reflections and learning stories emerging from other activities in the project. 
  • A Mailchimp newsletter - The newsletter is sent on a monthly basis, presenting the content that is published in the Curated Updates section of the blog. Initially sent to the core group of project participants, its membership has grown beyond this reduced number of recipient to reach about 160 WASH professionals, a good indicator of the relevance and value of this service, as reported in a previous blog post. 
Around this core, simple toolkit, we also made use of other supporting technology such as Adobe Connect for online webinars, Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive to collaborate on documents and share files and folders, Skype and Google Hangout for live meetings.

In the next post, we’ll take a closer look at the Wordpress blog, why we opted for an installed version of the software instead of using its free option and the core plugin we’re using to expand the functionality and features of the blog.