Knowledge and Data Sharing

Article modified: October 2017, Author:


Split off from original Information management page, which covers data protection, staff handbooks etc.

Information Resources

Note: Freedom of Information (England and Wales, also in Scotland with some differences) is a legal right to request access to all types of “recorded” information held by public bodies. Organisations providing public services might be caught in that the contracting body could make additional requirements to allow them to meet FoI requests, but otherwise unlikely. See Lobbying pages for FoI links.

Education and Training for Information Work in the Voluntary Sector is a research report produced by Leeds Metropolitan University (now Leeds Beckett) early 1999. An executive summary may still be somewhere on their website.

Aslib Journal of Information Management.

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. 7 Ridgmount St, London, WC1E 7AE, phone 020 7255 0500, email: info@cilip.org.uk Also see their Information Literacy group?

Knowledge Management

Not to be confused with information management, but can be closely connected. Some see it as part of de-skilling and job reductions: extracting and exploiting the knowledge held by individuals about work in the round. But, to quote from elsewhere on VR: “How good is an office manual if it doesnt include some element of extracting and collating knowledge otherwise locked up in an individual?”

So what is it? There are varying views about what KM involves – see quotes below. Distinctions are made between Explicit knowledge (recorded) and Tacit knowledge (personal know-how); a defined body of information as distinct from a person’s state of being in respect to that body. Data, information, knowledge, understanding and wisdom are all separate terms with different meanings, although writers (and organisations) often muddy these.

There is very little material on the web explicitly aimed at the voluntary sector. We would be delighted to hear of any.

  • Knowledge management in development matters site is connected with – a “community of international development practitioners who are interested in knowledge management and knowledge sharing issues and approaches”. Knowledge Management for Development Journal.
  • Oxfam Canada’s Sharing Knowledge Handbook. This is written for those “working in villages, towns and rural areas who wish to transform their communities through information sharing”. Presumably from a third world perspective.
  • More IM than KM: Development Informatics working papers from Institute for Development Policy and Management.

It is probably more in what KM is applied to, rather than how, that the voluntary sector differs. So the following links (many quite old but should still work), could be useful.

  • A Delightful Dozen Principles of Knowledge Management (pdf) excerpt from Verna Allee is a good discussion tool.
  • Inside Knowledge magazine.

FreePint, the newsletter for information professionals, had an article on Knowledge management for development: an international organisation’s perspective, November 2005.

Fostering the Collaborative Creation of Knowledge: A White Paper from IBM Research gives some background on managing information in a holistic way (or as they say, an ecological view). We can’t find the paper on the site any longer!

But can knowledge be managed, as individuals have different ‘knowledge bases’? See The Nonsense of ‘Knowledge Management’.



Some quotes

Peter Honey quoting Prof Susan Greenfield (name dropper!)

‘information is just facts which on their own are not at all interesting. Knowledge occurs when disparate facts are linked and turned into ideas.’ (Training Journal, June 2000)

From VNU’s Knowledge Management White Paper:

“What managing knowledge as a resource means in practice actually spans a continuum from generating efficiency to fostering innovation.”

Simon Kent, of Knowledge Management Software in Computer Weekly (June 01):

“Knowledge …. is information’s evolutionary descendant, transcending primitive emphases on hardware, bandwidth and Java compatability with something much more powerful and sophisticated: individual and collective experience that can be leveraged to benefit virtually any activity.”

From US government’s KM web site:

“Essentially, knowledge management is at the intersection of culture, philosophy, and technology connecting people, communities and ideas for action.”

Knowledge Praxis quotes from Karl-Erik Sveiby’s posting to the Knowledge Management Forum, identifying two “tracks” of knowledge management:

  • Management of Information. To researchers in this track, according to Sveiby, “. knowledge = Objects that can be identified and handled in information systems.” [A mechanistic or object approach]
  • Management of People. For researchers and practitioners in this field, knowledge consists of “. processes, a complex set of dynamic skills, know-how, etc., that is constantly changing.” [A cultural or process approach]
  • [to which they add a Systematic approach, which combines and adds to the other two]

from Larry Prusak, director of IBM Institute for Knowledge Management, as interviewed for ebusinessforum, Oct 00:

Key steps in instituting a knowledge-management programme: “A little strategy goes a long way. There are 4 simple steps: What knowledge do you want to work with? Where is it? What do you want to do to it? and to what end: what would you gain if you did this?” …. “You could do it in a day or two.”

“Heirarchy is a distortion of knowledge …(it) is a 19th century concept.”

Designing a knowledge-management system: “You’re better off enacting one than designing one. Letting the people who work in these organisations enact it, and give them loose advice.”

from Michael Schrage, writing in Fortune magazine:

“an objective review would confirm that most firms grossly overinvest in technologies that let people see what’s going on and dramatically underinvest in delegation and true empowerment…….knowledge confirms the absence of meaningful power.”

In conclusion after discussing how efficient technology networks can lead to poor data due to ‘selfish’ practice by staff, managers or customers: “business reality dictates that organizations that commit to strategic networking must invest as much effort in designing the incentives for honest disclosure as they do in designing the technical infrastructure itself.”

Open data and data sharing

See Sector Development, Statistics

  • New Philanthropy Capital has been working on data sharing across sub-sectors (not just about funding).
  • The Global Value Exchange, previously WikiVOIS, is an open source database for individuals and organisations who are trying to account for and measure the social or environmental value that their activities create, http://www.globalvalueexchange.org.
  • ┬áData Unity is an open source web tool which lets you explore and visualise data, and then share discoveries with others. http://www.dataunity.org/.
  • Markets for Good “is an effort by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the progressive financial firm Liquidnet to improve the system for generating, sharing, and acting upon data and information in the social sector”.
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