Fostering collaboration and the exchange of tacit and explicit knowledge and information to support innovation is an explicit element in the World Bank’s knowledge cycle (Figure 18). The first two pillars of its road map to innovation fit under the “sharing knowledge” section of its knowledge cycle.
Figure 18: Scientific Findings Capture Process
The World Bank shares knowledge externally as well as internally through a variety of activities and programs, such as mentoring and coaching programs, orientation, debriefings, thematic groups, advisory services, the Global Development Learning Network, the Development Gateway, indigenous knowledge, and the Development Forum.
The development gateway (the gateway) portal offers users access to development information, resources, and tools and provides a space to contribute knowledge and share experiences. The gateway helps users navigate the growing amount of development information available online and empowers virtual communities of learning to address key development issues.
The gateway is one of the key programs of the Development Gateway Foundation. The foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. A board of directors representing major donors and partners from international organizations, public and private sector, and civil society, as well as representatives of developing countries governs it. The gateway serves the needs of civil society, the public sector, the official donor community, the private sector, and many others.
The gateway builds virtual communities, guided by development experts, around major development topics. In addition, “Development Focuses” address current and emerging issues in development. Guides and advisers for a particular subject work with their communities to highlight the most useful resources available online. Registered users can submit content on a topic page and receive e-mail alerts to let them know about new content available on a specific topic or focus of their interest.
Accessible Information on Development Activities, or AIDA, one of the Gateway’s services, is the largest online source of public information on development activities in the world, with information on more than 350,000 planned, current, and completed projects and programs from more than 200 development agencies. AIDA allows users to search activities by country, topic, source of funding, or status.
The dgMarket is a global marketplace that provides information on donor and government-funded development activities. Donors and government agencies can directly post tender notices and other procurement information on development projects. Companies can set up a detailed profile to obtain automated e-mail alerts whenever a tender notice that meets their specific business interest is published. The full text of tender notices is available to paying subscribers or can alternatively be purchased on a per-notice basis.
Country Gateways are locally owned and operated initiatives that explore the use of information and communication technologies for development in their countries. Country Gateway portals help create and share local and global development knowledge, solutions, and opportunities. By participating in and launching diverse online and offline initiatives, Country Gateways enhance the transparency, efficiency, dynamism, and sustainability of the development process in their countries.
The gateway provides simple user interfaces for numerous functions: sharing knowledge and discussing issues, registering and profiling users, accessing projects and statistical databases, joining a topic community, receiving e-mail notifications, searching, and branding community workspaces.
The development forum is an electronic venue for dialogue and knowledge sharing among members of the World Bank’s development community. Its focal point is an ongoing and expanding series of electronic development dialogues on key issues and challenges facing the development community and the world’s poor, with a particular emphasis on learning from the experience of those who face these challenges in their daily lives. These dialogues are complemented by other features, including a speaker’s corner, that provoke discussion and debate on development issues and resources for those who wish to develop their own online dialogues on development issues or learn about other ongoing dialogues.
The focal point of the forum is an ongoing series of development dialogues, which vary in content, format, and duration. However, they all share a common goal: to foster increased dialogue and knowledge sharing on development issues, in an inclusive, collegial atmosphere.
The forum’s organizers will work to mobilize active participation in these dialogues by individuals and groups from developing countries. A particular effort will be made to reach out to partner institutions in developing countries—through training and research institutions, think tanks, universities, non-governmental organizations, and other development stakeholders—to encourage them to foster participation in these dialogues and take an increasing role in proposing, planning, and leading online discussions and knowledge-sharing efforts on development issues of their own choosing.
The World Bank hosts the forum. Development dialogues in the forum are sponsored by the World Bank or by other organizations around the world committed to sustainable development.
Global Development Learning Network
The mission of the Global Development Learning Network is to improve development impact by using distance learning to train development decision makers. The aim of the network is to use information technologies to offer content from a wide range of sources and reach a critical mass of participants to effect change.
The participants are usually a mix of decision makers in government, nongovernmental organizations, academia, civil society, private enterprise, and other development agencies. The network allows participants to learn in their home environments by providing a cost-effective alternative to face-to-face learning. It uses a mix of technologies, including satellite communications, videoconferencing, e-mail, Internet, CD-ROM, videos, and telephone conferencing.
The network is a growing partnership. It has 29 distance learning centers and distance learning networks that work together to bring development learning to approximately 20,000 participants each year.
Thematic groups, also known as communities of practice, are groups of people who are passionate about a common subject. They are mostly front-line staff that are working in the regions and networks. Leadership and membership in any thematic group is voluntary and open to all staff. The groups also have external partners, and knowledge sharing becomes seamless across the group through the e-mail distribution lists and Web sites.
Thematic groups receive funding from their sector board(s) based on work program agreements, which tie thematic group work to the sector strategy. Thematic group products, services, and activities include the production of knowledge collections (e.g., good practices and sector statistics), dissemination and outreach to staff and partners (e.g., brown bag lunches, clinics, workshops, study tours, Web sites, and newsletters), and support to task teams, thus enabling staff to apply and adapt the global knowledge to the local situation. In addition, the groups raise additional funds for specific work program activities.
The World Bank’s thematic groups provide some of its greatest innovations in its products and services due to the fact that group members work directly with partners and individuals in the regions to solve development issues.
Rewards and Recognition
The World Bank uses formal and informal incentives to foster and support knowledge sharing within its organization. One example of a formal incentive is the President’s Award for Excellence program. This program nominates two to three teams annually who have excelled in knowledge sharing. Informally, project teams use After-Action Reviews to debrief about the project, capture key lessons, and share knowledge. Annual performance reviews now include knowledge sharing and learning as one of four key behaviors for all staff and managers. The innovation and development marketplaces reward outstanding creativity (of both staff and other organizations) in addressing poverty. The organization has learned the importance of embedding the organizational culture with the idea that knowledge and innovation is a competency and a highly desired activity.
To inspire innovation and a knowledge-sharing culture, the World Bank holds programs such as knowledge fairs, which are learning events to communicate about and encourage the spreading of knowledge. One of these fairs is called the development marketplace and provides a venue to seek new ways of addressing poverty. It involves a competition open worldwide for any individual or organization to develop new ways to fight poverty. In 2002 the competition resulted in 2,400 entries with 204 finalists, and more than 40 of the suggested programs were funded.
We take what we’ve learned about sharing knowledge for global development and weave it back into the way the organization functions.
—Lesley Shneier, senior knowledge and learning specialist, the World Bank
Knowledge sharing is now widely perceived as an effective method to achieve the World Bank’s mission of poverty reduction.