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Why is Organizational Learning Important in the Field of Development?

Why is Organizational Learning Important in the Field of Development?

Posted by atodela on 13 Sep 2017

Being a part of The TOPS Program’s Knowledge Management Team, I have seen how our partners, who attend our trainings and knowledge sharing events, and read and use our resources, find value in these avenues for learning. I find that creating a culture of sharing and collaboration among peers across food security and nutrition expertise is impactful not only to those who participate and their projects, but also to the overall goal of helping win the fight against global food insecurity and malnutrition.

This culture of sharing and collaboration among implementers coming from different organizations is effective only up to a limit if their own organization’s structure does not enhance and promote the use of such learning. However, organizations working in the development field should consider transforming themselves into learning establishments. And here’s why:

  • Development is complex, contextual, and ever-changing. The more an organization shares knowledge about past challenges and solutions, current environments, and emerging trends among its employees, the better it can prepare them to understand and adapt their work to these diverse and multidimensional contexts.
  • Intra-organizational learning on administration and management can enhance an organization’s decision making in the allocation of its resources, effectively prioritizing and delegating resources to its programs for them to be more impactful.
  • Program activity-knowledge shared by different implementers within an organization can bolster programs across the board.  If one program/department faces challenges in M&E, they can look into another program/department to see if they can borrow any best practices and lessons learned, vice versa. This process strengthens overall organizational capacity and expertise.

Those are my first thoughts as to why cultivating a culture of learning in developmental organizations is valuable.

Please share your thoughts! What other positives are there in knowledge sharing in development organizations? Are there negatives? What challenges will champions face in advocating for organizational learning? Do you know any development organizations that have taken learning to the core of their structures?

Have you read Steffen Janus’s editorial on “Realizing the Knowledge Sharing Organization – Easier said than done?” on this issue of the KMTF newsletter? Steffen discusses the challenges of transforming an organization into a learning one. He poses that the problem is not with the type of platform you use for knowledge management or the communication channel into which you share learning, but more so on the environmental factors. These factors are: inclusiveness, championing, incentives, and integration. (Read more about them in his editorial!)