The idea of capturing, storing and sharing knowledge so as to learn lessons from the past and from elsewhere – overcoming the boundaries posed by time and space – is far from being a new one. In recent years, a growing movement has emphasised the improved application of knowledge and learning as a means to improve development and humanitarian work. The movement has led to the widespread adoption of learning and knowledge-based strategies among the range of agencies involved in such work, including donor agencies, multilaterals, NGOs, research institutes, and the plethora of institutions based in the South, including national governments, regional organisations, and indigenous NGOs.
This guide is aimed at staff working in all such organisations. There are 30 tools and techniques contained here, divided into five categories: i) Strategy Development; ii) Management Techniques; iii) Collaboration Mechanisms; iv) Knowledge Sharing and Learning Processes; and v) Knowledge Capture and Storage.
Many of these tools are simple and trying them out requires nothing more than the desire to try something new, and the drive to ‘get on and do it’. Undertaking them effectively requires effective – sometimes advanced – facilitation and communication skills. Here, we have aimed to provide comprehensive accounts of how to apply such techniques, with a focus on the requirements of potential facilitators.
The aim behind this toolkit is to present entry points and references to the wide range of tools and methods that have been used to facilitate improved knowledge and learning in the development and humanitarian sectors. It is hoped that our efforts here will go some way to ensuring that the quote starting this chapter does not become a truism: users will have access to more than just hammers, and the diverse problems faced in this important area of work will not have to be treated as just nails.