Ponderings on Network & Community Governance Part 1

Warning: LONG thinking-out-loud post! And note, the best stuff is in the comments!

For the last month or so there have been some very interesting conversations on the KM4Dev email discussion. One of them has been a reflection on the governance of KM4Dev, particularly the role of the current Core Group and the overall business model. KM4Dev has been around for over 10 years and grown to be a vibrant and respected community. It certainly is one of my very central communities of practice and I love and fret over it a lot. I was on the Core group from its inception until about 18 months ago when I stepped out, partly from burnout, partly from frustration, but keenly aware that my “just do it” attitude had longer term ramifications of people expecting me and the other “do-ers” to, well, just get it done. That is dis-empowering. (And I can be, um, a little dominating? 🙂 ) Now, back to the question of governance.

This begs the question, what kind of animal IS KM4Dev? A community of practice (CoP)? A loose, affiliated network of people interested in KM in development? A service? How should this inform our choices? Are there sufficient distinctions in the governance and supporting infrastructure of a larger network, versus a more bounded community? Or is it more dependent on the nature of that community or network?

As I read the messages, there were those who advocated a strong group for governance, for a paid secretariat staff. For formality. Others suggested developing multiple local offshoots and centralize the support functions in those volunteer hubs. From ideas for spin offs that embrace diverse business models, pleas for funding, to a very open, “let it be” model, all struck me as models that reflected each person’s world view.  Some  fundamentally urged the group to become more of an advocate for KM in development as a community, while others kept a more CoP-traditional perspective of the group as a place for its own learning. Do academics prefer more formality? What causes people to think paid positions are more generative for the community than volunteering? Are there ramifications beyond reliability? SOOOO many things to consider.

I then sent the following message to the group (this is just part of the message. It was a rambly, early morning thing!):

Here is my perception (NOT FACT) Those of us who prefer structure and some degree of formality discussed more about governance and secretariat (and I suppose, have a clearer idea about that differentiation. It is not a language used outside of development much here in the US!) Those of us who prefer informality (or perhaps, just fleeing too much structure!) emphasize the more emergent and adhoc options. Those who are taking a strong community lens focus on the community aspects of volunteerism and self organization. Those with a KM lens, (which in fact, have not stood out in my memory of reading these threads — INTERESTING) advocate for structures which focus on KM and finally, some have advocated structure that in fact advocates for international development.

How do we find your way forward with all these options? Furthermore, how do you discern options where people will “walk their talk” and pick up leadership. It is all nice and good to say “YOU should do this or that.” But in the end, if no one in the community is willing to step up to the tasks, all is probably lost. If no one cares enough to value and use what is provided – paid or not, what is it worth?

Consider this:  if you look at the number of people posting in the thread (less than 20?) compared to the list of members on the email list and/or our NING site (2500+), how do you reconcile the individual advocacy for a particular path forward with the huge, silent, larger whole? To whom does this “governance” thing matter? Is it important to those who simply see KM4Dev as an email list they can dip into when they need it – a sort of service? To those who avidly read, but rarely or never post for a host of reasons? To those of us who perhaps love KM4dev too much? 🙂

So I started doodling.  Is it useful to examine our governance and structure questions from a variety of lenses, and then find out if there is a sweet spot between them? From the conversation I discerned three possible lenses or perspectives including:  Community, KM (in development) and Advocacy for KM in Development. Here is what I sketched on my notebook.


For example, philosophically I absolute love the idea that KM4Dev should be more altruistic and more actively serve development. The realist in me says this is a structural mismatch, that indeed, by focusing on community and KM, we become stronger agents of that wider change through other, more formalized structures (of our orgs, etc) and we become INFLUENCERS as a network.  But that does not exclude forays into advocacy. The lenses do not imply “either/or” but simply help us explore from a variety of perspectives. Here is a very imperfect first try and looking across the three example lenses :  


If I look across the three, there is less difference between the community lens and the domain lens, while the advocacy lens presents unique benefits and needs. As noted above, it looks to be a far stretch for KM4Dev to pull that off. That said, KM4Dev might be an amazing incubator for a more focused group working on the advocacy.

So the next level of resource implications are about the degree of importance KM4Dev activities and artifacts have to be polished to the level of acceptance by development organizations and practitioners outside of the community. In other words, legitimacy beyond the community. This seems to require more infrastructure and thus more refined business models (funding) and processes.

So the question is, what does the community want and what can it pull off. And I’d personally add, how does it differentiate itself from yet another organization?

Help me improve my thinking.

P.S. If you look back up to the first image, you will see some scribbling on the lower right of the notebook sketch. I’ll post about that in the next blog post.  Stay tuned for Part 2 of Nancy’s Ramblings….

  1. Hiya Nancy,

    From too great a distance, but with some perspective….

    – in my experience, in online groups (and especially small ones) the people who do the work (write the posts, manage the website, etc) are the ones who provide the governance

    – in such groups, if financing is required, then the previous order is usurped, and whomever pays the bills becomes the ones who provide the governance (and unless they also do the work, the people doing the work over time begin to feel like unpaid employees)

    Hence: my advice, for what it’s worth, is (a) keep the need for financing to a minimum – to zero, if possible – because it will ultimately will undermine the effort; and (b) beyond that, people who want (say) advocacy provide the work to create the advocacy (etc.)

  2. Hi Nancy,
    More lo(n)g scheme than long read 🙂
    You should take advocacy with more salt.
    We are KM for development. For!
    We should not be ON development.

    Thus, for me column 2 and 3 merge.
    We are CoP and thus people, domain and purpose.
    Purpose is learning on KM for development. Key!
    Domain is KM for development and yes, that can contain using KM as a development tool; I know lots of organisations that need better KM.
    Also I know lots of organisation – perhaps it is better to speak of (the development) institutions – that will benefit from guidance in using KM.

    Now the divergence is in the people part.
    Some see us as net, some as org and I add to that ‘some see it at INC’.

    The development landscape is changing.
    Not in the least for legitimacy issues.
    That is the space where KM4Dev clients (!) operate.
    Funding comes from various Croesus-ses and we call it philanthropy.
    Others call it philanthropHy 🙂

    And now my axiom, my horizon, my two (literally) cents: we need budget as incentive (not goal) to ignite local action and global F2F meetings, amongst which working with – and on the organisations in development; you do that too.

    Such org however must be handled by a Scrooge on admin and sponsored by a filthy rich Chinese investor.
    Perhaps we can learn fro wikileaks, collectives of journalists etc.
    How we are going to that?
    Day by day, emerging, mid-round 🙂
    The bottom line (financial wording!) is that we need to find money to finance some hours / days for KM4Dev-ers to learn, both in local and global gatherings.

    Evening thoughts, Jaap

  3. Stephen, if you read between the lines, my thinking is totally aligned. But I find myself in the minority among the verbal, so I seek to understand the other perspectives. Like Jaap’s. Actually, I think there is a lot of alignment on the ends, but quite a bit of diversity about the means. Which is a hat tip to the diversity of the group. I’d rather struggle with that than blandness. 🙂

    Jaap, if budget ignites local action, what is the cost of the money to the person who provides it? What is the quid pro quo? Are our devils ourselves, others or both? 🙂 It seems to me what you suggest we do, IS what we do, and must do more of, regardless of KM4Dev. It is in the network or community where we refuel. So maybe two paths to the same end. It is amazing what we can create without external money. I still fear it tears us apart.

    As for advocacy, I’m all for it. I don’t think KM4Dev —as an entity— is positioned to do that. Individually and in smaller groups – well heck, we are a force to be reckoned with. We do that now, but just not with any direct credit to KM4Dev. Or anyone. We just do it. How would that change with money? Probably risk wrecking it all from my perspective. But you know me, just one of the old contrarians these days. Between you and me, newcomers must think all of KM4Dev is crazy!

    OK, must the margarita talking. I had better quit. But bottom line, Stephen and Jaap, I’m glad we intersect in neighboring networks!

  4. Hi Nancy,
    KM4Dev is steered by money now already, but we can polish it under with wording. I am talking about all mini-private-arrangements where KM4Dev-ers hustle their employer for a day or two (or do it but book the hours under other budgets!!!) or people ‘investing’ some days for later turnover etc etc.
    And for sure the KM4Dev-ers I met in the South (if that word / label is still allowed) can do great things with some money. You must know like we all that a F2F will do wonders.
    Look upon money as a means and less as a power (in the hands of the kleptocratics). Funders can sit at my table and talk about what to do / fund but they do not get extra credits because they finance. And if people want power because they finance we shake hands and say goodbye.
    The INC I am thinking about is more non-profit / robin hood. For example we could start fundraising for specifics which is now an more individual cumbersome exercise. And my specifics are financing local and global get-to-gathers.
    Cheers, Jaap

  5. Jaap, the Robin Hood model is probably saner. Funny that I chose that word! I like the idea of a .inc that is a social enterprise model. It can operate in the ecosystem with the CoP, but I would not confound the two. I’m about half way through “The Social Labs Revolution” and it is helping me a) see some of my blindspots and b) help frame some ideas.

    I also realize that my three columns were not very clear. But heck, that is what blogging/thinking out loud is about. Thanks for thinking with me.

  6. Mark Johnson-Lewis made a comment on this post that autoposted on my LinkedIn profile (ah, disparate networks). Mark gave me permission to port it over here…

    Mark Johnson-Lewis At the risk of splitting the thread, but wanting to broaden the discussing a bit…and complicated by not being able to see the entire email thread in question… After reading through your thinking, wondering if the group should reach some consensus on purpose (what are you trying to DO) before chewing on issues of governance. Seems to me the options under consideration (CoP vs. KM vs. Advocacy) require that first step. Or maybe I haven’t had enough coffee yet…

    Nancy Wright White Mark, may I copy this over to my blog? I realize reposting on LinkedIn fractures things a bit. http://www.fullcirc.com — and of course, the reason I want to do this is your observation is important. For a CoP, domain is enough. For advocacy, purpose is central. And in your question, I realized my three columns are apples, bannanas and mangos. Now I need coffee! 🙂 Thanks

    Mark Johnson-Lewis No worries. Went back and forth about where best to respond. The ongoing challenges of maintaining connections thru disparate networks…

    Nancy Wright White Thanks. Porting over…. (complete with all my typos!)

  7. Mark your comment on “purpose” is really useful. I think we have grown so large that there will never be either one single purpose, nor the means/engagement to ascertain this. In our network world, what I THINK Km4dev excels in is fostering a network so emergent learning and action can form with adhoc subgroups from the whole. Differentiating from formalized organizations who DO (or probably should) drive from some purpose. Our purpose is the application of KM in international development, which is a wide, wide field of play.

    I think I resist formalization for the very reason of this flexibility. Jaap also notes the absolute importance of resources to use in those emergent mobilizations, particularly for those who have less disposable (funny word) income to act independently of their organizations. Activation of flash teams has a cost. And it is important to figure out the options to meet those costs.

    I have been invited to hang out with a bunch of people who are looking at new business models and ecosystems. I suspect I have SO MUCH TO LEARN. (And Jaap, I’m participating remotely, so I need to push back slightly at our collective love of F2F. The world is changing. Carbon. Time. Attention!)

    Thanks friends. Keep me thinking/learning please.

  8. Originally posted this on LinkedIn and Nancy asked if she could post here – looks like I might beat her to it…

    The point I made was that it seems like this group needs to come to some consensus about PURPOSE before moving on to governance – gotta figure out what you want to do before you figure out how.

    Also, came across this post (http://bit.ly/MQRsJ3) at IISC highlighting a book (that I haven’t read) called “Peer-to-Peer Leadership: Why the Network is the Leader.” I think what’s useful for this discussion, is the notion that “P2P” organizations go through four developmental steps:

    1. Internalizing values and purpose
    2. Creating opportunities (permeable boundaries and multiple channels) for mutual and continuous exchange of input and output
    3. Reconciling polarities and abstractions (harmonizing destructive internal dissonance)
    4. Forming dyad exchange structures (for intelligent, emergent, trusted, as-needed actions)

    My question to Nancy is: where does KH4Dev sit on this continuum?

    There’s a fair amount of research out there about how networks develop (and this book seems to be adding to that knowledge base) and it seems like the KM4Dev group could benefit from work that’s already been done. No need to reinvent the wheel. Doesn’t mean everyone needs to take a deep dive in networks, but one or two…?

    • This is brilliant, Mark. And I suspect we sit ALL along the four developmental stages because our membership is always growing and morphing. The formal and informal leadership ebbs and flows (for many reasons). The diversity of (not fully integrated) platforms. Right now our conversations feel situated in #3, “reconciling polarities and abstractions). A lot of unseen action happens all the time in #4 as we think with/help each other in actual work. For example, my KM4Dev colleagues are often my informal thinking partners when I’m smack dab in the middle of a job. I can’t write about it publicly, but I definitely think with trusted community members. Over time we abstract this knowledge and share it out in a more generalized manner (respecting client confidentiality.) We “carry” what we learn from one context and test /try it in another. This is the huge and UNSEEN value of KM4Dev to me.

  9. To all of you on this platform or LinkedIn or ….
    That is the reason I advocate for G+ because that keeps it all together 🙂

    But, I see 1, 2, 3 and 4 apt for a start-up – and NOT for KM4Dev – where 1 is bubbling ideas, creating the buzz, 2 is going Beta (and some have success in perpetuating here :-)), 3 convergence (for example add images to tweets / messages etc) and 4 being bought by FB.

    My point is the P2P organisations (!) have or later on get purpose; for example to sell the client-base like Hyves or the Guardian.

    @Nancy; for sure KM4Dev can be analysed along 1 to 4, but …. we are 4!
    KM4Dev is a collection of dyads for intelligent, emergent, trusted, as-needed actions.

    Now back to someone who wrote “DO” and pointing at ‘purpose’. Exactly my thinking KISS (Keep It Simple Sweetheart/S*); people, domain and purpose!

    For KM4Dev-ers the latter is learning on ‘KM – actually IM and KS – FOR development’ which indeed is a wide practice landscape. Let us look at the window some more, what is the landscape and worry less on what we are.


  10. I have a tendency to view all this through the eyes of network development. Right or wrong, there it is. So I had to go back to Paul Vandeventer’s Networks that Work (http://www.communitypartners.org/networks/). He defines a network as “many different organizations [or individuals] working in concert as equal partners pursuing a common social or civil purpose over a sustained period of time.” And for those of you unfamiliar with this fine book (and yes, I carry a copy of it around with me) Paul sees three main types of networks: cooperating networks, coordinating networks and collaborating networks.

    These three types fit primarily on a continuum of engagement and risk: cooperating networks are low-engagement, low-risk; collaborating networks are high-engagement, high-risk. And yes, I know folks quibble about whether or not cooperating is “lower” than collaborating, but that’s really not the point I’m getting at. In getting back to my notion of “purpose” there does need to be some consensus around what kind of network you want to be. Once you’ve reached that decision, there are essentially rules of the game.

    But the first question for me ends up being: “for what?” Nancy, I went back and read your chart, and my strategic-planning-self said “that’s all fine and good, but there’s a lot of wiggle room in those objectives. There’s a lot of language about having a “place” to engage in some kind of “activity” but there’s nothing really measurable there. Relationships you can measure. Learning you can measure. But learning what, exactly, and relationships in support of what?

    Apologies if I’m coming across a little harsh. I think these are important conversations for organizations to have. I just want to ensure that you’re talking about the right things.

  11. Jaap, I’m not sure I follow what you said. 🙂 So in a fellow-stream-of-consciousness I’ll reply in kind.

    P2P ORGANIZATIONS — I think this is a subset of P2P NETWORKS. That formality thing. I think there is a big difference.

    I don’t perceive the four developmental steps as necessarily sequential. But then I don’t think sequentially either. Come to think of it, I’d not describe them as steps. The same dynamic shows up when you try and put the form, storm, norm, perform thing into a network context. It ISN’T linear and sequential. Things pop around, recycle. All four happen at the same time, at different scales, levels and ways. Life in the larger, open network(s)! To me this is a fundamental difference between open network structures and organizational structures. It is both the heaven and hell of networks.

    Next – Purpose. I realize I am not sure we all understand “purpose” as the same thing. Are purpose and “practice landscape” the same thing? I have to think about that. Your description is domain – the field. “For development” is not a purpose for me. It is an aspiration. A purpose might be “linking practitioners so we can have a greater effect… blah blah.” Does purpose have to have some describable outcome?

    I think my note about people wanting to escape formalities and structures describes me. I want the network. The rest is a product, not a reason for the network.

    Re G+ – > there is an expression that was used a lot on the early years of the http://www.well.com …. “your mileage may vary.” There is something about the G+ interface that really works for some people, and really doesn’t for others. I’m not sure I can discern why, but the gap is vast in my networks. Additionally I have become a passionate advocate for “A Domain of One’s Own,” (Google Jim Groom and A Domain of One’s Own for more) fully recognizing the linking is still an issue. But I digress. It is because I’m hungry.

  12. Nancy, try this one on for size: I think organizations ARE networks.

    And yes, I do think that a purpose should have a describable (measurable) outcome. Otherwise, how else will you know if you’re getting there? Or, in other words, are you meeting (achieving) your purpose. From KM4Dev’s website, “KM4Dev is a community of international development practitioners who are interested in knowledge management and knowledge sharing issues and approaches, and who seek to share ideas and experiences in this domain.” Is that the purpose? Based on what I’ve seen so far (in your post and the ensuing discussion) there appears to be some desire for something a little stronger, or dare I say, robust.

    p.s., loving the discussion.

  13. Mark, a little cross posting dance! And I have to say right off the bat, that you wrote “p.s., loving the discussion” was really useful to me. Thanks. I know Jaap and can banter with him, but sometimes a little clue raises my emotional intelligence!

    Second, I’ve asked permission to organize the email thread so you and others can see it. We’ll see what people say. My guess is “YES”

    I agree, orgs are networks. And there are lots of kinds of networks and I should have described my reference point better! Orgs are bounded networks. Teams are bounded networks. Best friends are a very small bounded network.

    I tend to talk about networks as a particular kind of network – open, unbounded and generally larger than the 150 or so that Dunbar talked about as the edge of what we can cognitively connect with in terms of relationships. I should have said that. 😉

    KM4Dev used to be a pretty bounded network. Then it grew. It lives on two platforms that aren’t totally overlapping. It has a high percentage of “listeners” (a.k.a. lurkers). So it FEEL to me less like a bounded network than a broad open network with some bounded networks within it. One of the very bounded networks is the Core Group which is voluntary, has its highs and lows (it is on a high now), doesn’t turn over much and hasn’t figured out how to easily be transparent.

    The second is the various subsets of people who have met F2F over the years – our gatherings tend to either bind you deeply into KM4Dev or cause you to flee!

    The third set of subsets are people who are visible because they are active posters, write about the field, and are either well placed in organizations or are freelancers in the sector. For them, KM4Dev is a great place to build one’s identity as well as one’s practice. Now we have some regional and linguistic hubs as well. And I’m sure there are other subsets not visible to me.

    Naturally, these subsets drive the direction of KM4Dev, just out of voluntary interest and energy. There is no central agenda. There are no specified goals. It is only in the last few years we have tried to “monitor and evaluate” ourselves. Thus the interesting discussions we are having now.

    Your advocacy of a stronger, robust purpose is at the core of the current conversation in my view. Some advocate for this. Others advocate for the emergence and flow of the network and all its interesting edges. The latter requires more self organization, and is harder to measure, eh?

    I look at myself. I can’t measure my worth to KM4Dev, but I can measure KM4Dev’s worth to me in my learning, building my FABULOUS network, helping me in my work. I suspect there are hundred’s of our members who can say the same. Survey response s don’t do justice to this kind of value. Is it worth the cost to measure it? Or is it more important to continue to hold the space for it to occur? (Financial priorities)

    Paul Vandeventer’s Networks that Work – I classify these primarily as structured networks with the cooperating structure possibly being the most open and emergent. It is clear that purpose is integral to structured networks. So perhaps the question I’m teasing out is that KM4Dev has both a structured role, and an emergent role and they impact each other. Funding, for example, often brings other organizations’ priorities to drive ours. Funding community work can crowd out volunteer support and then when funding slips, things fail. What is the edge here? How do we really exploit our difference from development organizations themselves to fill a useful niche in the ecosystem?

  14. Sounds like a network of networks, each with its own set of rules – not a bad thing, but important to understand what those rules (or norms) are. And the Core Group sounds like the organizational “backbone” of the network of networks. I think some SNA similar to that evidenced in the paper you linked to might be useful. Even interesting! Getting a better understanding of how the existing networks network (stutter much?) can at least give you a starting point of “this is where we are, where do we want to go?”

    I think what you’re going through is pretty typical of membership organizations – which is essentially what KM4Dev is. What’s atypical (but I think is crucial) is both to gather the relevant data on where you are now, and having a broad conversation about a) where do you want to be and b) what structure will get you there. Governance will follow pretty naturally from there.

    I worry less about issues of funding. Especially given the content of this discussion. Worry about structure and governance first. Raising money will end up being the easy part 🙂

  15. What follow-up comment. You keep referring to the edges. I like to remember that it’s at the edges where the most diversity flourishes (a lesson from permaculture).

  16. 1. There is an SNA of KM4Dev. Check out the intro here: http://www.km4dev.org/profiles/blogs/km4dev-social-network-analysis-introduction-from-graham-durant
    http://www.km4dev.org/profiles/blogs/a-mis-leading-sign-of-a-km4dev-downturn (this last one a bit of a critique of the analysis.

    This one about adjoining/overlapping communities is one we should probably be considering in our community conversation, as I think it has interesting implications http://wiki.km4dev.org/Adjoining_communities_–_frequented_by_KM4Dev_members

    There are some interesting patterns. I wonder how many community members actually read this? John Smith is working on an overview paper that includes looking at the SNA as well as the other events and evaluation efforts. Sort of a scan of our inward looking work of the past two years.

    2. The reason I am particularly heartened by the governance conversation is that it does raise the issue – what do you as individual/we as a group want and what are we willing to do to make it happen? Always a juicy question. You might enjoy this http://www.km4dev.org/profiles/blogs/km4dev-futures-important-discussion-for-all-km4dev-members-on-lea

    It is interesting, as I try and share the community perspective with you, Mark, as an outsider, I’m gaining greater appreciation for what members have already done. The triangulation of external perspectives is always useful for me. Another value of diverse networks. (Now I’m wondering how we connected… I’m terrible at that!)

    Jaap, circling back to our internal conversation, do the maps suggest patterns we should consider? I need to call John over here…

  17. Here is the link to John’s synthesis project work. http://wiki.km4dev.org/IFAD_Funded_Synthesis_Project

    And edges — I’m an edge addict. I find poking around the periphery is really useful. I’m doing some work (that I hope to blog about next week) that offers a way to become more aware of the edges and ways to use them in KM in development. We are still trying to get our language clear…. but stay tuned!

  18. Jeez, clearly I’ve got some reading to do! Not sure when I’ll carve the time to do that deep dive, but it’s on my agenda. But without digging in, it appears that the KM folks aren’t doing what KM folks are supposed to do – in other words, there seems to be some knowledge that’s not (necessarily) being factored into the discussion. I don’t wish to reinvent any wheels here, so I need to do some more homework (on what’s already been done).

    As my neighbor often says, “good talk, good talk.”

    • I’m laughing. We are always the case of “the shoemakers have no shoes.” It’s like facilitating facilitators – the toughest group you can get!

  19. On edges: sure, boundary spanners are the sparkling spot for cross fertilization; thats how we learn (mimicry). I too love to step out – at least with one foot – over the edge putting tows in the water to find grounds to step on avoiding piranhas measuring temps.
    On purpose: indeed learning – in the widest sense – is the purpose of KM4Dev. For some the edges to scratch are near, they might be novice, their ‘do’ component is sucking in discourse, scanning methods, experimenting with tools. Within KM4Dev I had the chance to use my fellow KM4Dev-ers testing KS; I learned from it!
    On networks: under pressure of IT and mobility people bring personal networks into an organisation. An organisation is no more than a bunch of conversations ring-fenced with legal stuff to control communication with the organisations habitat. An org is thus a constraint network. That is where IP nonsense, the rites, mores etc come from. And yes, every network is a network of network.
    Again KM4Dev = a CoP = people, domain and purpose operating in a practice landscape. People is everyone who wants to join, chime in, contribute, pull, push (although we have zero tolerance towards spam and self regulation on other exchange). Domain is KM FOR development (whatever that is and we are open to a learning discourse). Purpose is also a continuous discourse and sometimes leads to KS-tools, running a Ning etc. Leaving landscape. I see the crux of change for KM4Dev here. We come from dev orgs in the North belly button staring at internal KS and IM, Followed by learning on some IM / KS between (branch) organisations and topped of by KM (IM / KM / learning) in networks. See my KM framework image on this at http://webbrain.com/attach?brain=7161BD4C-7B6D-C2C7-1162-A0CEA7EED9BA&attach=26&type=1.
    My take on the landscape is that KM4Dev has to focus better on the development practices on the ground (and thus not in the WBs etc) and if we want to make a difference we need to reach out better over there and for that we need lots of funds to make it easy.

    • Jaap, your thinking is getting clearer to me. I say this lovingly and jokingly: now we have to figure out how to really make it clear. You dance with metaphors and I go on and on and on. What a pair!

      What particularly stood out in your last comment was “My take on the landscape is that KM4Dev has to focus better on the development practices on the ground (and thus not in the WBs etc) and if we want to make a difference we need to reach out better over there and for that we need lots of funds to make it easy.” Let’s start with the front end of that statement. As Phillip said in his post on the DGroups list today, it is unlikely that as a whole we’d take an exclusive focus, but I think there are significant steps we can take to give the “on the ground” focus more traction. That said, what are the implications of ignoring the large development organizations? I suspect that in our ecosystem some people actually contribute to the positive evolution of those orgs in their work. Some help by being irritating outsiders, pushing and poking at the large orgs. But I deeply and fundamentally agree that the most signification focus should be on the ground. But that ground may still be diverse. 😉

      I think Phillip’s post on the list today came at it from a different angle, but similar destination. Here it is, and sorry about the weird formatting… it came in my box that way.:

      Hypotheses and Questions: Maybe we would like for KM4Dev to take an advocacy stance; maybe KM4Dev should even take an advocacy stance; however, the simple truth is that KM4Dev cannot take an advocacy stance because we do not even know who or what KM4Dev is!? KM4Dev does not have a single identity and, thus, cannot stand for any one thing. However, that to me means that there are certain things one can say about: KM4Dev wants to be inclusive rather than exclusive. KM4Dev is too diverse to centre around a few ideas and unite behind them. KM4Dev rather changes itself than its environment. KM4dev is re-active rather than pro-active. KM4Dev wants to surf on rising currents rather than being fixed to the ground.

      Some of these things relate to Nancy’s Blogpost. As Pete above Nancy thinks that KM4Dev not having a single identity does not exclude forays into advocacy. The lenses do not imply “either/or” but simply help us explore from a variety of perspectives. However, to me this is similar to what Jaap suggested and that avenue did go very far.

      I wonder, as she does, how the entire community (all those people who never add their voice) see this?
      And I wonder, if one part of a brand (KM4Dev) could be involved in advocacy whilst another wants to stay “neutral”?

      The bit that I challenge is that “we need a lot of funds to make it easy.” Well, if we wait for the funds, we will be extinct. If we predicate our learning and action on funds, we miss opportunity. So it is an “AND” not a “IF” situation, eh? If we generate learning, ideas, innovation, maybe the funds will come find us….

  20. Hi Nancy, all,

    I’m a little late to this rich and varied thread, and only have a small window of opportunity to contribute. I hope it’s ok to focus on one of the earlier sub-topics: funding. I tend to agree in general with Jaap, though not necessarily on who/what would be the best source 😉

    If I understand your perspective, Nancy, there is a direct link between funding and formality. I would dispute this, although there is some kind of a dialectic there, just not convinced that more of one means more of the other.

    More important to me is my belief that it can be a luxury to be able to allocate one’s time to something without having to demonstrate a return. There is a great diversity of people who think of themselves as somehow connected to KM4Dev, and there is a great diversity of working environments in which they find themselves.

    Some have a lot of freedom to choose how to allocate their time and some do not. Some require funding to contribute more than a small amount of time and others do not. I also like Jaap’s point about funding potentially creating opportunities to do things together that otherwise would be difficult.

    Just as I don’t believe in the the funding=formality equation, I also don’t believe that more funding=equals better health, effectiveness, whatever of a network or community. Here is where I think the thrust of much of Mark’s interventions is pointing: what is/are the purpose(s) for us to do things together? What do we want to achieve?

    Recognizing that we will never have (and would not want) ONE program of activities, and that we do not collectively need to make a choice between volunteering and being contracted, it still seems to me that if our collective thinking and planning results in some interesting ideas that could be catalysed by some financial support, I’m all for it. I don’t think we need to give up our values to go down that path, nor do we need to become an organisation.

    Let’s hope we can find ways of moving forward that somehow allow for different modes of engagement, for energy to come from (and flow to) different places, and for most KM4Devers to get what they want and put what they want into what is a truly wonderful phenomenon that I hope outlasts us all….

    • Hiya Riff and Pete, thanks for joining in. For others, Riff, Pete and Jaap are on the KM4Dev Core group.

      Riff, I think we are actually starting to surface some of the fundamental issues about funding, formality, where they are and aren’t linked. For example, formality in accounting is important. Formality – or at least reflection and awareness of the value of non financial contributions as you have said, is important. So you have helped me clarify that the formality I fear is becoming an organization and losing our ability to be diverse, inclusive, open. And the fact that there are plenty of organizations to go around. When we need organizational structure, we partner, like we do w/ Helvetas (which goes unsung, btw).

      As I was brushing my teeth, I realized what I value is the ability of KM4Dev to connect people to other people, to ideas, to encouragement to practice meaningful KM FOR and IN development contexts (both, Jaap!), and to be able to surf some of the edges of the practice that would be difficult in more formalized institutions. This kind of environment struggles in our formal development institutions, thus it is unique and important in the ecosystem of development. Does that make any sense?

      As Jaap and you have well articulated, people require resources to act in this environment. Some (in fact most) is generated by those individuals and groups they form. Some might blossom in wonderful new ways with external support – or capital. Again, going back to Hassan’s book (sorry, it is what I’m reading at the moment), he talks about the four kinds of capital: physical (new services or infrastructure – we’ve provided the wiki and support kstoolkit.org for example), human (new capacities, skills — I think we do this one really well through the process of conversations, etc), social (trust and collaboration – again, these emerge well from the network, but are not very visible and that may be just fine) and intellectual (new knowledge and learning — again, like social, I think there is a ton of this produced, but only a slice under our community banner. But look at members’ personal blogs — I have to believe that KM4Dev is a huge influencer in people’s new ideas).

      If we spring off of the scenarios in John’s report, maybe the four types of capital can be one way of “accounting” for our network and then understanding where some financial capital can lever best the other four. Does that make any sense? Rather than saying ” we need money to run.” Dunno. Thinking out loud again. Which is a HUGE benefit of KM4Dev and our other networks!

  21. Hi

    Great convo, quick comment on John’s work. We (I) announced (mentioned) in a post to the network that the piece is finished but we’re holding off complete publication because we ‘ve got a couple more ‘focused conversations’ due this month, based on thought pieces already written, and we want to try and give them some airspace, which would be hard if we pushed discussions on the larger issues in John’s doc.

    Also the doc is rich and long, so some of the current CG are working on 27/18 March to develop Some scenarios, as the basis for network conversations, which we want to push through in April. We will be meeting people in Rome and the Hague (where we randomly happen to be passing in small groups!) to share some ideas, so, Nancy, we can push our work out on this as well so you can think and comment while we sleep!

    This convo is useful for those end March scenario building ones


  22. I’m currently reading Hoppe, Reinelt – Social network analysis and the evaluation of leadership networks. http://leadershiplearning.org/system/files/SNA%20and%20Leadership%20Networks%20-%20LQ.pdf

    They identify four types of leadership networks:

    1. Peer Leadership networks
    2. Organizational leadership networks
    3. Field-Policy leadership networks
    4. Collective leadership networks.

    I think this is a useful lens for KM4Dev. (NOt sure it is helpful on the governance side, grin, but clarity on form helps discernment on governance decisions!)

    Take a look at the paper. I think y’all will find it worthwhile.