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Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development

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  • Amsterdam University of Applied Science

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Purpose – This paper aims to analyze how the debate around knowledge management for development has evolved over a 14-year period. Design/methodology/approach – The study was conducted in an inductive manner, seeking to identify key themes discussed on an online community on knowledge management for development. Analysis comprised observation of the online debate, as well as semantic (co-word) network analysis of a " big data " set, consisting of 14 years of email exchange. The results were verified with the members of the community in a focus group manner. Findings – In terms of content, the knowledge management for development debate remains strongly engaged with actual development discourse, and it continues to be rather oriented toward tools and methods. In terms of learning, the community appears highly inclusive, and provides fertile ground for in-depth knowledge sharing, but shows less potential for innovative influences. Research limitations/implications – The study contributes to literature on knowledge management in the non-profit sector by showing how heterogeneous communities in the development domain generate knowledge and shape discourse. More specifically, the paper contributes to knowledge management for development literature by providing a comprehensive overview of how the domain has evolved since its emergence. It also advances knowledge management by showing how inclusive networks can contribute to but also limit learning. Practical/implications – The study is of use to knowledge management professionals by showing not only the benefits but also the limitations of inclusive knowledge-sharing networks. Social/implications – The study provides important societal implications by showing which topics are most important to development practitioners, covering the period encompassed by the Millennium Goals. Originality/value – The paper is the first to provide a comprehensive historical overview of the key topics on knowledge management for development, as engaged by the primary online community on this topic. It also introduces innovative methods for inductive analysis of big data.
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Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
1
INCLUSIVE PERSPECTIVES OR IN-DEPTH LEARNING?
A LONGITUDINAL CASE STUDY OF PAST DEBATES AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS IN
KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT FOR DEVELOPMENT
Julie E. Ferguson [j.e.ferguson[at]vu[dot]nl]
VU University, Amsterdam
ABSTRACT
This paper analyzes how the debate around knowledge management for development has evolved
over a fourteen year period. The study was conducted in an inductive manner, seeking to identify key
themes discussed on an online community on knowledge management for development. Analysis
comprised observation of the online debate, as well as semantic (co-word) network analysis of a ‘big
data’ set, consisting of messages exchanged during fourteen years through an online forum. The
results were verified with members of the community. In terms of content, the knowledge
management for development debate remains strongly engaged with actual development discourse,
and continues to be rather oriented toward tools and methods. In terms of learning, the community
appears highly inclusive, and provides fertile ground for in-depth knowledge sharing, but shows less
potential for innovative influences. The study contributes important participatory considerations to
knowledge management in the non-profit sector. It contributes to knowledge management
development literature by providing a comprehensive overview of how the domain has evolved since
its emergence. It also advances knowledge management by showing how inclusive networks can
contribute to but also limit learning. The paper is the first to provide a comprehensive historical
overview of the key topics on knowledge management for development, as engaged by the primary
online community on this topic. It also introduces innovative methods for inductive analysis of big
data.
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
2
INTRODUCTION
An ongoing challenge among professionals in the sector of development cooperation is how to
access expertise among heterogeneous development stakeholders, while at the same time integrating
their varied perspectives toward more effective organizational responses. This paper presents a case
study of an online community in the domain of international development, initiated in an effort to
address this challenge.
For over 15 years, the community central to our case study has been facilitating knowledge sharing
between professionals aimed at generating better understanding and more effective development
responses, by way of knowledge management. Indeed, many development challenges are too
complex and costly to resolve unilaterally, and call for collaboration between a diverse and often
dispersed range of partners, such as local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs),
and policymakers, donors, and knowledge institutes. Knowledge management professionals in the
development context thus face a daunting task: they need to turn their focus outward, seeking out
heterogeneous perspectives in order to generate in-depth knowledge of local development needs and
opportunities (Puri, 2007); at the same time, they need to align these perspectives with internal
institutional priorities, seeking to support improved effectiveness of development practices by
fostering learning (Ferguson et al., 2010). Learning is a process of collective, context-sensitive
knowledge construction, which can naturally emerge if enabling conditions to share knowledge
such as people with expertise, and the physical ability to engage with one another are available
(Contu & Willmott, 2003; Huysman, 2000).
Indeed, knowledge is at the heart of development practice and debate; the development sector can
therefore be characterized as knowledge-intensive, involving heterogeneous, and often dispersed
stakeholders who rely on one another for in-depth knowledge sharing (Ferguson et al., 2010).
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
3
Accessing and generating relevant knowledge is a challenge in and of itself in any knowledge-
intensive sector (Wasko & Faraj, 2005; Phelps et al., 2012), but in not-for profit sectors such as
development cooperation, a further complexity is added to the equation. Namely, development
involves strengthening people’s self-reliance and autonomy of choice, both in material (economic
and environmental), and non-material (socio-political) terms (Sen, 1999; Madon, 2000). Therefore,
the democratization of decision-making processes, or ensuring that debate is inclusive of
heterogeneous perspectives, is an integral part of development (Contu & Girei, 2014; Ferguson &
Soekijad, forthcoming). Indeed, as advocates of participatory development have been arguing for
over two decades, it does not make sense to exclude from development debate the local interest
groups at the heart of aid efforts: they are most likely to know which problems are the most pressing
and why, as it is after all their quality of life and self-sufficiency that development efforts seek to
improve (Escobar, 2011). Thus, while the inclusion of stakeholders is a priority to many non-profit
domains, it is both means and ends for development cooperation.
In an effort to bridge the gap between ‘lofty goals’, such as sustainable development and inclusion,
versus ‘complex, obdurate material social realities they encounter’ in practice (Watkins et al., 2012:
286), development professionals have turned their focus outward, seeking to generate better
understanding of development-specific organizational processes conducive to knowledge sharing and
learning (Ferguson et al., 2010). Indeed, since the beginning of the 21st century, ‘knowledge
management for development’ has been eagerly embraced by both large and small non-profit
development organizations. In so doing, they aim to facilitate and organize knowledge sharing in a
professional, development-specific context, accounting for the heterogeneous perspectives that shape
development knowledge, while simultaneously contributing to more inclusive development
(Ferguson & Soekijad, forthcoming; Puri, 2007).
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
4
However, integrating ‘knowledge management for development’ into everyday development practice
is more easily said than done, and from the outset of this turn toward ‘knowledge-based
development’ (King & McGrath, 2004) development professionals have been engaging with one
another to share knowledge on how best to proceed. This has generated, among many other
knowledge-oriented activities, a host of inter-organizational knowledge networks, which comprise
heterogeneous, distributed actors, interconnected through social relationships that enable knowledge
sharing and creation (Phelps et al., 2012). One such development-specific network in particular,
aptly named ‘Knowledge Management for Development’ or ‘KM4Dev’, is oriented toward the
challenges of realizing knowledge management for development in practice. What started out as a
small group of mostly Western development practitioners, has over the course of its existence grown
into a lively and active network of knowledge management for development professionals, including
almost 4,000 members from across the world.
The fifteen year life-span of the community closely matches that of the ‘Millennium Development
Goals’, articulated in the year 2000 by the international development community as the most
pertinent development priorities to be achieved by 2015i. With this year now upon us, it is interesting
to study the debates conducted by development practitioners, and to analyze which development
priorities these actually reflect. Such an analysis is useful, because it helps understand whether
development professionals have succeeded in aligning broad development debates and practices, and
how development-specific knowledge management has progressed. To this end, this study set out to
answer the following research question: What were the main knowledge management for
development topics during the 2000-2015 timeframe, and how have these contributed to development
learning? By studying this question, we can provide important insights into the evolution of
knowledge management in general, and in particular related to the contextual domain of international
development. Moreover, the study helps understand what specific challenges are encountered by
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
5
non-profit organizations in terms of understanding and implementing knowledge management, and
how they go about this, particularly in a dispersed setting where the inclusion of heterogeneous
perspectives is at stake.
A comprehensive time-series analysis made it possible to study this question, through semantic
network analysis of a ‘big data’ set comprising all messages exchanged through an online listserv,
between members of a worldwide community on knowledge management for development. The
outcomes were interpreted and verified among members of the community during a face-to-face
meeting in a focus group approach. Comparing the outcomes of the different time series, the learning
potential of the community was then analyzed by assessing the emergence of new topics versus the
continuation of ongoing themes. In the next section, the conceptual underpinnings of ‘knowledge
management for development’ are first introduced, followed by the case study and its interpretation
in terms of knowledge management in general, and development in particular.
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
Knowledge management for development represents a broad debate originally initiated by
development practitioners, on how knowledge is shared and used in shaping aid interventions and
influencing development decision-making. It builds on the premise that knowledge-based processes
lie at the heart of development, and responds to a need for improving knowledge sharing between
and learning amongst development stakeholders, despite their widely diverging perspectives
(Ferguson & Taminiau, 2014; King & McGrath, 2004).
This paper conceptualizes knowledge from a ‘practice-based’ approach (Brown & Duguid, 2001;
Orlikowski, 2002), which suggests that people’s knowledge is highly embedded in their perspectives
on reality, rather than an objectively knowable ‘truth’. Knowledge – or rather, the act of knowing – is
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
6
thus highly subjective, open to interpretation, and inseparable from human activity (Gherardi, 2000).
Indeed, professional engagement is perceived as a contested social process whereby practices are
constituted and reconstituted as recurrent patterns of action, recognizable in inter-subjectively
created meaning (Gherardi, 2009). In other words, everyday practices are dynamically shaped
through the sharing and generation of knowledge between peers (Feldman & Orlikowski, 2012).
In line with this view, development practice is shaped through an interplay of perspectives, bringing
together stakeholders through often subtle knowledge-based negotiations to determine what
‘development’ actually comprises, and how it should or could be shaped (Ferguson & Taminiau,
2014; Puri, 2007). For development professionals, an important and as yet unresolved dimension
involves the question of how to transform development practice in a way that is more inclusive of the
perspectives of heterogeneous interest groups (Avgerou, 2008; Puri, 2007). This question is at the
heart of the ‘participation’ debate that emerged in the early nineties (Chambers, 1994) but which,
given the dilemmas entrenched in the debate as to who sets the boundaries to participation
(Bebbington, 2004; Cornwall, 2004), is nowhere near resolution. Thus, it becomes interesting to
analyze how development knowledge is actually shaped through the interplay of these heterogeneous
perspectives in practice, and how different stakeholders impact on this process.
In fact, at the root of participatory development lies awareness among development organizations
that they need to strengthen their understanding of local perspectives and realities, if they are to
respond more effectively to the needs of the intended beneficiaries of aid. This awareness led to the
recognition of development as a knowledge-intensive sector, bringing to the fore considerations of
how aid organizations could better facilitate knowledge sharing both internally, and with and among
its external stakeholders (King & McGrath, 2004; World Bank, 1998). However, studies analyzing
participatory development as a knowledge-intensive practice are still fairly scarce, and theory
development is still in a nascent phase (Ferguson et al., 2010; Ferguson & Soekijad, forthcoming).
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
7
Indeed, studies in the domain of ‘knowledge management for development’ often focus on tools for
sharing, transferring or integrating knowledge (Ho, 2013; Ramalingam, 2005), or debate the very
nature of development knowledge (Britton, 2005; Powell, 2006), while emphasizing the complexities
(Ramalingam, 2013) inherent to knowledge management for development. Others explain why a
knowledge-based lens on development is important, outlining the political dimensions (Mawdsley et
al., 2002; McFarlane, 2006; Rossi, 2004) or policy implications (Hovland, 2003). However, explicit
analyses of the actual implications of knowledge management on development debate, and more
specifically how heterogeneous communities of development practitioners are shaping this debate,
remains largely untouched. Because of this, it is not evident whether, or how, the development sector
is coping with its knowledge needs, which development priorities resonate loudest, and whether
development is succeeding in integrating and learning from heterogeneous perspectives of its
dispersed stakeholders. A more thorough examination of the state of the art in knowledge
management for development is therefore of significance, as a way to foster more effective responses
to important societal challenges.
Knowledge management for development draws on a vast and diverse body of literature that
emphasizes the significance of knowledge to organizational and economic life, and which has
contributed to a dedicated discipline on ‘knowledge management’ (Alavi & Leidner, 2001; Wiig,
1997). This discipline has been categorized in terms of three ‘waves’, representing different
subsequent emphases and approaches. In the ‘first wave’, knowledge management was mostly
oriented toward realizing knowledge capture and knowledge transfer (Alavi & Leidner, 2001), with a
strong technology-orientation, in terms of building ‘knowledge clearinghouses’, databases, yellow-
pages, and so forth. (Ferguson & Cummings, 2008; Pan & Leidner, 2003). The ‘second wave’ of
knowledge management (Huysman & De Wit, 2004) was characterized by more emphatic
recognition of the contextual embedding of knowledge, and whereby knowledge sharing and
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
8
learning processes became important knowledge management foci (Ferguson & Cummings, 2008;
Laszlo & Laszlo, 2002). This period also represented a peak in terms of interest in knowledge
management (Phelps et al., 2012). The ‘third wave’ of knowledge management has people and
processes at its core (Ferguson & Cummings, 2008), but also a more integrated approach to ICT-
enabled knowledge sharing, manifested for instance by the widespread adoption of social media.
Social media become meaningful based on the content shared by their users (Kaplan & Haenlein,
2010), as well as their influence on user behavior (Majchrzak et al., 2013).
Although the term ‘knowledge management’ in itself is now on the decline, the main gist remains
highly topical, covering a broad spectrum of organizational practices that are all in some way related
to explicit attempts to facilitate learning and structure knowledge sharing in a professional context
(Alavi & Leidner, 2001). Most of the knowledge management literature is oriented toward private-
sector objectives as maximizing profits and gaining competitive advantage (Argote & Ingram, 2000;
Grant, 1996), revolving around knowledge transfer (Hansen, 1999), and often organized in a rather
managerialist, top-down manner. While such studies provide useful insights into different
opportunities and challenges of knowledge sharing, they tend to gloss over the highly contested
nature of knowledge, which is nonetheless formative for development decision-making (McFarlane,
2006; Thompson, 2004). At the same time, a body of development-specific knowledge management
literature is emerging, as evidenced by dedicated journals (such as the Knowledge Management for
Development Journal, International Journal of Knowledge-based Development), or by special issues
on knowledge management and information systems in development in leading journals (including
International Journal of Technology Management in 2007, Management Information Systems
Quartely in 2007, Information Systems Journal in 2013, Journal of Knowledge Management and
Journal of Information Technology in 2015). Extending this emerging body of literature, this paper
contributes a development-specific form of knowledge management by addressing the heterogeneous
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
9
perspectives that contribute to influencing and shaping development knowledge, taking into account
the contestable, negotiated context in which development knowledge is shaped (Ferguson &
Taminiau, 2014; Thompson, 2004). In so doing, the paper explores the opportunities for fostering
development learning in a way that is inclusive of heterogeneous perspectives.
A useful way to analyze what these different perspectives in fact comprise, is through discourse
analysis, which views language as a form of social practice and focuses on the ways social
interaction is reproduced by text (Fairclough, 2013). In the following section, a novel approach to
such analyses is introduced, aimed at uncovering not only explicit but also latent discourses, which
contributed to shaping knowledge management for development discourse, as well as the KM4Dev
community, throughout its fifteen years existence.
CASE STUDY
Setting
Shortly after the publication of the now seminal World Bank development report ‘Knowledge for
Development’ (1998), a group of development practitioners established an online community, aimed
at sharing experiences and practices to strengthen development-oriented knowledge. This ‘KM4Dev
community quickly grew, attracting more and more people across the world (initially mostly located
in Europe and North America) who were directly or indirectly involved with ‘knowledge
management’ in a development context, either as practitioners, policymakers, as part of donor
agencies, or as consultants (Smith, 2014). From the fairly intimate online network, the community
quickly blossomed, and at the time of this study included almost 4000 participants, with an active
listserv, a core team, annual meetings, an online wiki, a peer-reviewed journal, and many other spin-
offs. The community was initially supported by various bilateral funding agencies, which contributed
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
10
to platform support and facilitation. However, these budgets have now been cut, and facilitation is
now done on a voluntary basis, with different agencies incidentally supporting or hosting community
activities (such as workshops, travel expenses, or network events).
The KM4Dev community is an ideal case for this study, as it brings together a variety of
development stakeholders for whom knowledge management is a priority, and, through its online
archive, makes it possible to study longitudinally what topics have been discussed. In so doing, it
becomes possible to understand how knowledge management debate has evolved during the past
fifteen year period, in the specific non-profit domain of development cooperation.
Methods
Given the nascent state of ‘knowledge management for development’ theorizing, the research
question underlying this study calls for an inductive analysis. This enables identifying and
interpreting the main knowledge management for development debates since the general inception of
the topic around the new Millennium. As a (now non-active) community member from the very early
days of its inception, the author was able to observe the community exchanges. However, contrary to
conventional inductive analyses, a novel analytical approach was applied for the purpose of this
study, aimed at uncovering latent discourses in online exchanges, and particularly suited to overcome
possible interpretive bias deriving from close acquaintance with the study object. This approach
comprised a semantic network analysis, drawing on the total body of messages exchanged through
the online KM4Dev platform, and is very appropriate for analyzing big data sets such as the one
underlying this study.
Semantic network analysis (or: network text analysis) is a semi-automated form of discourse
analysis, drawing on the principles of social network analysis in that it seeks to uncover patterns of
relations rather than individual attributes, but between words rather than actors (Leydesdorff, 1995;
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
11
Van Atteveldt, 2008). By applying clustering algorithms, the method allows for identifying
frequently co-occurring words and visualizing them in semantic clusters, which constitute the
building blocks of discourses. Semantic network analysis thereby provides a relatively quick way to
gain insight into not only prevalent, but also more subtle discourses (Diesner & Carley, 2004), which
interpretive content analyses may overlook but which can nonetheless reflect important topics of
debate within a community. Moreover, semantic analysis makes it possible to extract and visualize
multiple, simultaneous discourses, which is particularly important in the context of this study, where
in particular more subtle or unconventional discussions might indicate whether non-dominant
interests are in fact expressed. A wide selection of different tools is available to conduct semantic
network analyses (for instance AmCat (Van Atteveldt, 2008), ConText (Diesner, 2014, or
fulltext.exe (Leydesdorff & Welbers, 2011)); in this study a combination of tools was opted for
based on fulltext.exe, to provide optimal control of and insight into each step in the analytical
process.
First, the entire body of messages exchanged among the KM4Dev community (visualized in figure 1
below) was downloaded, preprocessed (removing all metadata, standard stopwords, and all
characters other than alphabetic text), and parsed. Important to note is that the (full) name of the
community (“knowledge management for development”) was excluded during this process, to ensure
that manifestation of these terms in the analysis derived from their actual usage in the context of
discussions, rather than from the community name.
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
12
FIGURE 1: Total body of messages exchanged by the KM4Dev online community
Next, the data were divided into three distinct sets, each covering approximately five years. These
time periods correspond to what has been described as first, second and third waves of knowledge
management (Huysman & De Wit, 2002; Pan & Leidner, 2003; Ferguson & Cummings, 2008),
which was useful for comparing how community priorities corresponded with broader knowledge
management trends, as we discuss in more detail below. These three time-delineated sets were then
analyzed using fulltext.exe to identify the most frequently used co-words and their manifestation in
clusters (as described by Leydesdorff, 1995; Leydesdorff & Welbers, 2011). Results were visualized
using Pajek (Batagelj & Mrvar, 2004) and VOSviewer (Van Eck & Waltman, 2009), open access
tools for network visualization. In addition to the co-word analysis, an inventory was made of unique
senders (using email address as identifier), to detect whether the growth in content matched the
growth in membership, as visualized in figures 2a and 2b below.
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
13
FIGURE 2a: messages exchanged on KM4Dev listserv, 2000-2014
FIGURE 2b: unique senders of message exchanged on KM4Dev listserv
The complete data set underlying the study is summarized in table 1 below.
TABLE 1: Dataset underlying semantic analysis of KM4Dev listserv
KM4Dev listserve*
2000-2004
2005-2009
2010-2014
Total
messages sent
2.804
9.359
8.096
20.259
unique senders
107
559
672
1.338
pages of text
1.023
2.546
574
4.143
words
681.308
1.493.800
367.128
2.542.236
text lines
59.307
147.625
33.256
240.188
[* stopwords, numbers and other ‘meaningless’ data removed]
2804
9359
8096
0
2000
4000
6000
8000
10000
2000-2004 2005-2009 2010-2014
messages
messages
107
559
672
0
200
400
600
800
123
unique senders
unique senders
Number
of messages
Timeframe
Number
of senders
Timeframe
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
14
The curve reflecting growth in content exchanged approximates the curve reflecting the number of
unique senders, and neither of these are very exceptional in the patterns they manifest. In contrast,
however, the semantic analysis itself did yield unconventional results, presenting quite an
interpretive puzzle, as explained below. To resolve this puzzle, the 2014 KM4Dev annual workshop
proved very useful, as it provided an opportunity to engage with approximately fifty KM4Dev
community members present at the meeting, some of whom had been members during the entire
period covered by the analysis. These members were questioned during an interactive plenary
session in a focus group manner, to identify which themes they recollected as predominant over the
three periods indicated, and to jointly interpret the patterns yielded by the semantic analysis, which
are now presented.
Findings
Network analyses tend to yield different, yet often recognizable patterns, for instance ‘core-
periphery’ networks (with a dense cluster in the center, and a more sparse distribution of nodes at the
periphery; see for instance Sgourev, 2013); ‘small-world’ networks (with several dense cliques,
interconnected by bridging ties; see for instance Watts & Strogatz, 1998), or ‘random networks’
(with arbitrary pattern distributions; see for instance Newman et al., 2002). These patterns are useful,
because they help explain how people’s behavior is affected by their contextual embedding (Kilduff
& Brass, 2010). However, in the analysis of the KM4Dev network, the conventional patterns which
one might expect could in fact not be discerned. Instead, the analyses yielded very densely connected
networks, with barely any clustering at all. This proved the case for all three time-series analyses,
which are now introduced consecutively.
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
15
Phase I: 2000-2004
In terms of the preliminary phases of the KM4Dev community, members participating in the focus
group discussion recollected a predominant orientation on ICT tools and instruments, with popular
topics including communities of practice, KM tools, and methods, as well as discussions on the
nature of knowledge. The dataset covering this first phase comprised 2804 messages sent, 107
unique sendersii, translating into on average 26.2 messages per sender.
Table 2-I below indicates the outcome of the semantic analysis, listing the most frequently used
terms represented in the KM4Dev community during the period 2000-20004, manifested in two
clusters and ordered in terms of frequency.
Green cluster
Red cluster
knowledge
support
KM
participant
people
communication
development
access
management
NGO
information
lucie
time
business
workshop
partner
paul
action
learning
conference
organisation
stories
community
social
project
learn
sharing
peer
question
south
discussion
service
network
global
practice
article
steve
mobile
experience
book
process
role
resource
strategy
IM
value
share
ICT
technology
sector
CoP
Tearfund
culture
research
change
mark
program
tool
lesson
manager
This topical distribution is visualized in figure 3-I.
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
16
Figure 3-I: network visualization of key terms 2000-2004
Figure 3-I shows that the network has an extremely high density, i.e., many of the possible
connections between terms are in fact realized. This means that many of the debates covered these
topics, and there was little discursive segmentation into distinct clusters. Interpretation of the two
clusters, verified with the members of the focus group, indicates a tendency within the green cluster
toward an organizational focus (process, support, management, communication, etc.), including the
structural conditions for knowledge management (tools, technology, mobile). Of significance is the
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
17
overall centrality of key topics including ‘global’, ‘knowledge’, ‘NGO’, and ‘south’, indicating that
the knowledge management focus was indeed closely aligned to development priorities. The non-
profit organization Tearfund was one of the first to recognize the significance of knowledge to
development (and their knowledge manager a key driver thereof)iii, so their prominence in the debate
during this initial period is unsurprising.
The red cluster can be interpreted as inclining toward knowledge sharing practices (‘CoP’
(community of practice), ‘experience’, ‘share’, ‘learning’, ‘workshop’, etc.). Also noticeable are the
centrality of key drivers as ‘development’, ‘partners’, and ‘participants’, touching on community
debate on how to ‘practice’ development in a way that is inclusive of or beneficial to partner
interests.
Overall, this network visualization indicates that ‘everyone is talking to everyone’, and that the
debates are strongly interrelated with one another. In sum, the semantic analysis partially
corresponds with focus group members’ recollection of prominent debates, but also indicates that the
question of actually organizing knowledge management was important for many development
professionals. This is of course fairly unsurprising, as it was a relatively new discipline at that time,
so many people were still trying to make sense of the concept, and to understand how to best
integrate it in their development practice.
Phase II: 2005-2009
The second phase that we analyzed showed strong increase in community participants and active
discussion on the listserv. The focus on tools remained strong, but these were often oriented toward
facilitating networking and knowledge exchange through communities, rather than seeking to
‘capture’ and transfer knowledge. Community members participating in the focus group echoed this
active ‘networking’ orientation, as part of the ‘social dimensions’ of ICT, also mentioning a more
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
18
‘local’ focus on knowledge sharing, as well as facilitation methods as important topics of discussion.
The dataset covering this first phase comprised 9359 messages sent, 559 unique senders, translating
into on average 16.7 messages per sender, which represents significant growth and fairly high
member involvement.
Table 2-II below indicates the outcome of the semantic analysis, listing the most frequently used
(meaningful) terms represented in the KM4Dev community during the period 2000-20004, ordered
in terms of frequency and manifested across three factors.
Yellow cluster
Green cluster
Red cluster
Knowledge
People
KM
CoP
development
learning
management
blog
information
community
kmdev
team
experience
organization
tool
participant
issue
help
project
impact
practice
research
sharing
learn
resource
organisation
question
document
workshop
example
network
program
wiki
service
idea
white
support
access
discussion
global
conference
Africa
change
book
training
business
share
approach
content
local
social
exchange
technology
communication
challenge
health
IM
value
event
This topical distribution is visualized in figure 3-II below.
Similar to phase I, figure 3-II shows a very high density network, with little visible distinction in
terms of topic significance. Slight discursive segmentation is manifested, but still fairly subtle
compared to what usually emerges from such analyses. Interpretation of the clusters was again
verified with the community participants in the focus group. The red cluster (as in phase I) appears
orientated toward doing knowledge sharing (‘exchange’, ‘sharing’). ‘Tools’ remain important, but
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
19
these appear to be more oriented toward networking (‘network’, ‘CoP’), and early forms of social
media (‘blog’) that enable interaction. Also noticeable in this knowledge sharing cluster is the
orientation toward accounting for knowledge management activities (‘impact’, ‘change’, ‘project’,
‘approach’), which was indeed verified by participants as an organizational priority that emerged
once the novelty of KM had worn off.
Figure 3-II: network visualization of key terms 2005-2009
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
20
The yellow cluster reflects an orientation toward institutional integration of knowledge sharing, for
instance by sharing ‘experience’, ‘issues’, ‘resources’, and providing ‘support’ through ‘training’,
‘workshops’, ‘conferences’, ‘wiki’, etc. Finally, the green cluster, although more difficult to
interpret, suggests organizational enablers, providing ‘help’, ‘service’, and ‘examples’, to foster
‘learning’.
The development content of the community remains prominent, reflecting continued interest in
‘development’, but also ‘health’ has become a priority (yellow nodes). Knowledge sharing at a
‘local’ level, with ‘people’ in ‘Africa’, continues to be a concern (green nodes).
Overall, this network visualization indicates that there is still a dense core with strongly interrelated
debates, and with some slight peripheral, yet cross-cutting debate on global versus local, and
whereby ‘technology’ in and of itself seems to be occupying a slightly more marginal position. In
sum, the semantic analysis again corresponds with focus group members’ recollection of prominent
debates, indicating the challenge of integrating knowledge sharing as a key institutional practice, but
also reflects that accounting for the ‘value’ of knowledge management became more important, and
less self-evident than perhaps was previously the case.
Phase III: 2010-2014
In relation to the third phase of our data set, community members participating in the focus group
immediately mentioned social media as a key topic of debate on the list, as well as a continued
orientation toward products, processes and instruments, and ‘futures’ (of KM and development). The
dataset covering this third phase comprised 8096 messages sent, 672 unique senders, translating into
on average 12,04 messages per sender, which represents a slight decline in messages, reduced
growth, and lower member involvement.
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
21
Table 2-III below indicates the outcome of the semantic analysis, listing the most frequently used
(meaningful) terms represented in the KM4Dev community during the period 2010-2014, ordered in
terms of frequency and visualized in two clusters.
Yellow cluster
Green cluster
knowledge
share
people
training
development
event
information
IM
management
wiki
KM
useful
experience
team
learning
access
sharing
jaap
project
local
tool
content
community
evaluation
online
university
organization
book
network
participant
idea
business
question
nancy
practice
context
communication
blog
help
technology
discussion
journal
mobile
learn
research
paper
process
application
workshop
impact
Africa
value
lucie
manager
service
change
topic
resource
social
challenge
This topical distribution is visualized in figure 3-III below.
Figure 3-III again shows a very high density network, with a particularly dense core, and low
clustering. Interpretation of the meaning of the two clusters was again verified with the community
members participating in the focus group. While both clusters manifest a practice orientation (in line
with the broader concurrent knowledge management trends, and as indicated by the community
members), the yellow cluster manifests a tendency toward (perhaps more interactive) forms of
knowledge sharing, as indicated by ‘share’, ‘social’, ‘experience’, ‘wiki’ and ‘blog’, and also
indicates debates on ‘learning’ from the ‘content’ shared, through the community ‘journal’, ‘wiki’,
‘research’.
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
22
Figure 3-III: network visualization of key terms 2010-2014
The green cluster represents the ongoing institutional challenges encountered by development-
oriented knowledge workers, manifested in debates on ‘value’, ‘useful’(-ness), and ‘evaluation’.
Knowledge products underlying such institutional tendencies are reflected in ‘book’, ‘resources’,
‘papers’, and some attention is also given to ‘processes’, ‘people’, and ‘services’.
Consistently across all three phases, ‘knowledge’ and ‘development’ are among the top three topics
addressed in the community, with high mutual interrelatedness. The strong development orientation
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
23
of the community therefore remained prominent, similar to the debate on ‘access’ (to tools, relevant
knowledge, and stakeholders), and on ‘knowledge’ (including recurring debates as to
epistemological origins). Moreover, across the three phases, the community showed extraordinarily
high network density. In the next section, we discuss what this high density might imply, in terms of
development learning within the community, and for knowledge management more generally.
DISCUSSION
The main objective of the study underlying this paper was to identify the main knowledge
management for development topics addressed during the 2000-2015 timeframe, and to understand
how discussion of these topics contributed to the construction of collective, context-sensitive
knowledge, thereby shaping development learning. A longitudinal study of a key online community
of globally dispersed development professionals disclosed that the discussions can be matched to
what prior studies have identified as three ‘waves of knowledge management’ (Ferguson &
Cummings, 2008; Laszlo & Laszlo, 2002; Pan & Leidner, 2003), whereby the focus incrementally
shifted from tools, contextual dimensions of knowledge, to knowledge embedded in processes and
people. Nonetheless, the analysis also disclosed three crosscutting dimensions. First, topics included
the organizational conditions that enable knowledge sharing (including tools, technology
dimensions, and organizational processes). Second, topics revolved around knowledge sharing
practices, with an increasingly interactive, social, and process orientation. Third, topics addressed
institutionalization of knowledge management, including the organizational barriers and challenges
to knowledge management, and issues related to accountability and value.
Besides these topics related to knowledge management in general, the dimensions of development
and knowledge remained central across the entire timeframe studied. While this is unsurprising in
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
24
view of the online community’s main focus on ‘knowledge management for development’, it could
well be argued that the general topics related to knowledge sharing practices in an organizational
and/or institutional context might overshadow the actual development orientation of the community.
In fact, throughout its lifespan so far, the community has partially succeeded in its efforts to extend
its global reach: on the one hand, community membership appears to comprise predominantly senior
professionals in European and North American-based NGOs, but involvement of African, Asian, and
South American members is on the rise, as evidenced by a recent evaluation report of the community
(Smith, 2014). On the other hand, Francophone and Spanish KM4Dev sub-communities were
initiated, but efforts for the former were mostly driven by one person, while the latter was deleted
due to lack of engagement (Smith, 2014). Thus, it could be argued that the community’s Western
dominance leads to less attention to the needs and opportunities for development among actual
beneficiaries of aid. Nonetheless, the centrality of development-oriented keywords suggest that the
community was consistently oriented toward its objectives of strengthening development
effectiveness through knowledge sharing. However, to evaluate the actual inclusion of stakeholder
voices in KM4Dev debate calls for further research, for instance juxtaposing social network analysis
with the present content analytical focus, and thereby linking content to the organizational
embedding of community members.
Reflecting on the community’s learning capacity, the findings are ambiguous. Overall, the analysis
disclosed very dense semantic networks, with strong interrelations between many of the words, and
very little clustering. On the one hand, it can be concluded that the community is therefore a fruitful
forum for knowledge sharing. High density networks, such as the ones identified in this analysis,
generally indicate strong internal cohesion (Friedkin,1981; Reagans & McEvily, 2003), which in turn
is an indicator of trust, and is conducive to sharing (complex) knowledge in a relatively
unproblematic way (Hansen, 1999; Levin & Cross, 2004). Moreover, the community appears to be a
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
25
highly inclusive environment, whereby topics and in extension the people that initiate them are
easily interrelated: there are no outliers, no subgroups, but instead very strong mutual linkages. This
indicates that everybody seems to be talking to everybody. Further, similar topics are addressed
across the entire period studied, which means that the community has generated a substantial, rich,
and in-depth body of knowledge. Finally, the topics addressed in the community reflect a
development focus, which makes it possible to presuppose that the community does contribute to
professionals’ development practices as intended. In sum, the community appears to yield positive
benefits to its participants, which is also clear from the growing number of members, even fifteen
years after its establishment and when ‘knowledge management’ can no longer simply draw on the
appeal of a fashionable term to reap interest.
On the other hand however, the strong co-word interrelations and lack of clustering reflect a
downside, in terms of the community’s learning potential. Namely, high density also indicates that
there may be a lack of novelty within the community engendering the question whether new
perspectives are actually being introduced. Given a different type of analysis this might become
more evident, but in any case, this study clearly revealed that such new perspectives were not
permeating nor affecting the core of the community, and its most dominant topics. In fact, while
long-term engagement with similar topics is conducive to generating rich knowledge and this
sentiment was echoed by participants of the focus group discussion it can also indicate a lack of
learning, leading instead to repetition of established, but not necessarily useful ideas and practices.
Indeed, prior studies have established that access to innovation opportunities and novel insights
depends on bridging ties across heterogeneous clusters, whereby these bridging ties more often than
not represent more distant rather than close, strongly embedded ties (Granovetter, 1983; Hansen,
1999; Uzzi, 1997).
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
26
In sum, it is questionable whether the community is succeeding in generating new knowledge, is
simply regurgitating established insights, or is repeating discussions as newer members join. Indeed,
this can lead to long-term, high-value members abandoning the community, or in any case taking a
backseat (reverting from active core members to ‘lurkers’ or passive members), which indeed has
been the case among several key ‘knowledge management’ figureheads within the specific
community central to this study. However, as a self-organized, voluntary community, this is not
altogether unexpected. The community continues to engage passionate members, reinforced by a
core-group aimed at “supporting the needs of KM4Dev members and building the community”
(KM4Dev wiki). The evidence therefore appears to suggest that the community does sustain
development learning if perhaps less so at a collective level, at an individual level it continues to
fulfill an important and valuable function.
Thus, it appears that knowledge management communities that are successful in terms of their
longevity and inclusiveness can be a double-edged sword in terms of their learning potential.
Namely, such communities can yield benefits in terms of fostering cohesion and generating richness
of content, but these same dimensions can in fact turn against them in terms of constructing novel
knowledge. Indeed, the KM4Dev community analyzed in this study is deemed an expert network of
knowledge management professionals, but one might question the extent to which the expertise
within the network is in fact being integrated in participants’ organizational context, or remains an
isolated entity in and of itself. This latter dimension might explain why knowledge and information
management professionals in a more general sense continue to struggle with the institutionalization
of knowledge sharing as a key priority, despite recognition of the need for knowledge-intensive
organizing in so many different domains, both profit and non-profit. In this sense, the findings
presented in this study can also prove useful for scholars and practitioners embedded in a broader
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
27
organizational context, and interested in understanding how online communities share and shape
domain-specific knowledge.
Summary
Zooming in on the exchanges communicated with an online community over a period of almost
fifteen years, this study reveals ambiguous yet interesting outcomes: that is, the very characteristics
of successful knowledge sharing communities can at the same time inhibit their further development.
Indeed, analysis of the KM4Dev community showed that over the period study, some (key) topics
continued to attract much debate, and thereby yielded in-depth community knowledge. However, this
also led to repetition, and possibly deterred the inclusion of innovative, or novel perspectives. While
this single case study design limits the generalizability of outcomes, it also provided fine-grained
insights into community dynamics; subsequently, by interpreting the outcomes from multiple
perspectives of learning and network theory, and development studies, the study provides important
implications for research and practice.
Implications for research and practice
First, the study extends knowledge management literature in general, by showing how knowledge
management debate evolved over the past fifteen years, in a specific non-profit context. Indeed, the
study disclosed that dense interrelations allow online communities to flourish in terms of knowledge
sharing, but can simultaneously present inherent limitations to the generation of new knowledge, or
learning. More specifically, the paper contributes to knowledge management by highlighting some
specificities of knowledge management in the non-profit domain, and indicating how this context
differs from conventional approaches, thereby building on prior studies by for instance Ragsdell et
al. (2014). In particular, the study highlights the significance and challenges of fostering the
inclusion of heterogeneous perspectives on non-profit organizing, as previously articulated in the
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
28
long-standing participation debate. In this study, participation was studied by assessing the inclusion
of different perspectives, manifested through expressions of knowledge, and by analyzing these
expressions semantically. In fact, despite its significance to many non-profit organizations,
participation remains an underexposed dimension of multi-stakeholder, knowledge-intensive
organizing; moreover, where participatory considerations are manifested in a non-profit context, they
are rarely addressed from a knowledge perspective (Ferguson & Soekijad, forthcoming). Connecting
participation to knowledge management literature is important because on the one hand, it creates
scope for generating more innovative, multi-stakeholder approaches to pervasive societal problems.
On the other, it helps to unravel emergent barriers toward realizing non-profit indicators of
stakeholder inclusion, presenting the possibility to generate more effective knowledge management
in practice.
Extending these possibilities to the case study presented above, a possible way forward for the
community in question is for participants to ensure their key asset, namely their rich, shared
expertise, is maintained. However, there is scope for more effectively drawing on the body of
knowledge present within the community’s archives (i.e., practicing more effective knowledge
management themselves), for instance by taking advantage of novel information and data mining
methods such as adopted, for example, in the present study. This might help identify relevant
existing sources, and extending these further, rather than replicating debates and losing the interest of
long-term participants.
Another recommendation for practice is for knowledge management professionals to strengthen their
brokerage roles within their different institutional contexts, rather than focusing on the actual tools
and content of knowledge. Namely, the advances in current-day technologies make it increasingly
simple for knowledge workers in all kinds of organizations to generate their own knowledge
networks, drawing on the multitude of social media available to them. It therefore appears that the
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
29
role of knowledge management professionals is changing, for instance toward providing innovative
gateways to context-specific, previously untapped sources of expertise, and thereby also
strengthening the representation of heterogeneous stakeholder perspectives.
Finally, this paper contributes to the important non-profit sector of development cooperation, thereby
providing significant societal relevance, by showing how the sector has evolved and possibly
stagnated in terms of its knowledge management orientation. In view of the vast ambitions that the
Millennium Development Goals sought to achieve by 2015, it is all the more important to draw on
global knowledge to continue addressing pertinent and severe social issues; and clearly,
collaborative, knowledge-intensive approaches are indispensable. Therefore, continued efforts
toward establishing knowledge management for development as a serious and significant domain of
study, is a priority.
Limitations and future research
Besides the contributions this paper offers, it also has its limitations. One of these is the scope of the
content analyzed in this paper, which is, of a course, a mere tip of the iceberg. Further in-depth
analysis of the content exchanged drawing on both qualitative and quantitative methods would
clearly be of value in terms of strengthening the interpretation. However, this study does indicate the
key topics addressed in knowledge management for development, so provides useful sensitizing
concepts for further study. Further statistical analyses of the results, or social network analysis of the
community, could also be a useful complement to the results reported on in this paper in terms of
showing the patterns of interaction and influence among the key actors and debates within the
network, and thereby offers a useful direction for future research.
Pre-publication version. Please cite as: Ferguson, J. E. (forthcoming). Inclusive perspectives or in-depth learning? A
longitudinal case study of past debates and future directions in knowledge management for development. Journal of
Knowledge Management, Special issue on Knowledge management in the not-for-profit sector’.
30
Clearly, there is ample scope for further study of knowledge management in non-profit domains in
general, and development in particular. This paper represents a modest contribution toward
expanding this exciting and important field of research.
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ENDNOTES
i See www.undp.org/mdg
ii A caveat underlying these figures is that not all names of the senders of messages could be distinguished in phase I, due
to the very early period in terms of email usage and lack of corresponding metadata in this early period. The actual
number of senders is therefore likely to be slightly higher, yielding a lower average, but this cannot be retraced based on
the archival data.
iii See for instance http://www.norrag.org/en/publications/norrag-news/online-version/knowledge-research-international-
co-operation/detail/tearfund-and-knowldege-management-where-we-are-in-july-2001.html
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The author acknowledges the support provided by Marco Otte of the Network Institute Techlabs, and Loet Leydesdorff,
Wouter van Atteveldt, and Iina Hellsten. The author also gratefully acknowledges the invitation from and support by the
German Development Institute (DIE), to present her work at the ‘Knowledge for Development’ 2014 workshop
convened by DIE and KM4Dev, and which inspired her to embark on this analysis. The input provided by host John
Akude, facilitator Jaap Pels, and workshop participants were also of great value.
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Research question: In this study we examine whether knowledge management (KM), along with innovation concepts (attitude toward innovation, open innovation, and innovativeness), evokes direct and indirect influences on organizational performance of nonprofit sports clubs. Research methods: A total of 266 valid questionnaires were collected online from board members of nonprofit sports clubs in Iran. Structural equation modeling was used to investigate the relationships between variables. Results and findings: The results indicate that KM has a positive effect on organizational performance via two different sequential mediators: attitude toward innovation and innovativeness, and open innovation and innovativeness. KM has a direct positive effect on sport clubs' innovativeness and organizational performance. Implications: Nonprofit sports clubs should take advantage of promoting KM processes such as facilitating the development and sharing of new knowledge through relying on internal and external knowledge sources. By doing so, sports clubs can enhance capabilities to exploit external knowledge and foster a positive attitude towards newness and innovation which can help them to innovate more and perform better. The study provides theoretical and managerial implications that help sports clubs innovate and increase multiple aspects of their organizational performance. ARTICLE HISTORY
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Learning objectives General learning objective: To develop a general understanding of the fundamental issues concerning management and use of knowledge in development organizations. Specific learning objectives:  To develop understanding of the importance of knowledge as an organizational resource in a concrete practical context;  To recognize the relevance of knowledge management in a development context;  To identify different ways to implement KM4D strategy, understanding the way organization, individual and context mutually influence each other;  To be able to critically discuss the value and pitfalls of this approach for development objectives.
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