Implementing and Monitoring an Organizational Knowledge Management Strategy at EngenderHealth

GHKC's Guide to Monitoring and Evaluating Knowledge Management in Global Health Programs was developed to describe key components of KM activities and help measure outcomes in learning and action. This resource is part of a series of case examples developed by GHKC members highlighting ways the Guide has been used and suggestions for future editions of the Guide.

Contact: Natasha Lerner, Program Associate, Research and Learning, EngenderHealth, (nlerner@engenderhealth.org)
 

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Overview

EngenderHealth conducted a cross-organizational needs assessment to inform the development of a knowledge management (KM) strategy. EngenderHealth’s KM strategy aims to be responsive to the needs of staff so that KM tools and resources can be used effectively and efficiently to increase staff and organizational  performance. To that end, EngenderHealth has interwoven a strong monitoring and evaluation (M&E) component into their KM strategy. They have been able to objectively and quantitatively document, and assess activities and outputs of KM. Through subjective and qualitative feedback, EngenderHealth have documented the positive outcomes and impact of KM across the organization. This case example illustrates some of the indicators EngenderHealth has used to monitor its organizational KM strategy and some of the challenges that still remain in demonstrating objective and quantifiable return on investment of KM activities.

EngenderHealth has objectively and quantitatively documented and assessed the activities and outputs of KM and through subjective and qualitative staff feedback, has documented the positive outcomes and impacts of KM at EngenderHealth.

Background

In May 2014, EngenderHealth conducted a cross-organizational needs assessment to inform the development of a knowledge management (KM) strategy. A full assessment is planned for every two years, a second survey took place in 2016. The needs assessment included questions related to attitudes, intentions, and practices of staff and their perceptions of KM at EngenderHealth. These results allowed EngenderHealth to develop a KM strategy grounded in strengthening the organizational culture of KM. As part of an overall strategy to improve KM, staff at headquarters developed and implemented an array of tools, resources, and initiatives, in an iterative and participatory manner to ensure that these tools and resources responded adequately to staff needs. Key tools, resources, and initiatives were designed to address both tacit and explicit KM needs in three areas: solidifying and training staff on organizational policies and standards, fostering an organizational culture and infrastructure growth, and developing standard tools and resources.  

Ensuring that KM strategies are relevant and effective
Like many organizations, EngenderHealth has paid increased attention to KM in order to increase staff and organization performance. Successful KM strategies are responsive to the needs of our staff, as well as agile and adaptable over time. This approach accelerates effective and efficient KM and in turn enhances organizational effectiveness. To build responsive, agile, and adaptable KM systems, EngenderHealth’s organizational KM strategy integrates robust monitoring and evaluation (M&E), which includes:

  • An indicator framework incorporated into KM standards and practices
  • Formal mechanisms to gather staff input, including web analytics and staff surveys of specific tools and initiatives;
  • Informal mechanisms to gather staff feedback by creating a learning culture where feedback is welcomed and actively solicited in an ongoing way;
  • A biannual staff survey to track progress on strategic KM goals and objectives;
  • Decentralized responsibility to country KM focal points for KM activities and M&E of those activities.

Further, until now, the KM team at headquarters has focused on ensuring that KM decisions derive from well-designed M&E activities. Our ultimate aim is for this role and responsibility to be devolved to country programs—a process that has started but is not yet fully operational. Decentralizing responsibility for the M&E function of KM will ensure that project and country offices can more independently learn from and adapt their KM work.

EngenderHealth has not measured the impact the KM strategy has had on organizational performance, at least quantitatively. In the biannual staff survey, we ask open-ended, qualitative questions to understand overall KM progress, which has allowed the organization to gauge progress and the effectiveness of activities in the initial years of strategy implementation. Moving forward, we plan to fully operationalize metrics, so that we can more robustly measure and understand progress.

A sample of specific indicators that we have used to monitor and evaluate KM activities and the adoption of our standards and practices adapted from the Guide to monitoring and evaluating knowledge management in global health programs (KM M&E Guide) are included below.

Engender Health Table

A sample of other KM indicators we use that are not covered in the M&E guide are:

  • Percentage of survey respondents who are aware of an existing KM tool
  • Percentage of staff who plan to share what they have learned in a webinar with at least one other staff member
  • Percentage of survey respondents who report that KM is an important or essential part of their job
  • Percentage of survey respondents who report that they can easily find relevant information they need to do their job
  • Percentage of new staff receiving an orientation on KM tools and resources within two months of hire
  • Number of technical assistance visits to field offices that include KM activities
  • Percentage of project budgets that have a minimum of days for KM technical assistance
  • Number of new proposals that meet minimum standard for KM (budget and activities)

Future Suggestions for the Guide

EngenderHealth has successfully worked over the past three years to understand staff needs and organizational gaps in KM. Through needs assessments and monitoring and evaluation of KM activity for immediate, iterative improvement, we have developed a robust suite of KM tools and resources and have trained all staff on new organizational KM standards and practices. Adapting indicators from the M&E Guide, we have been able to objectively and quantifiably document and assess the activities and outputs of KM (specific activities and the work holistically), and through subjective and qualitative staff feedback, we have been able to document the positive outcomes and impacts of KM at EngenderHealth. While KM work has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from staff saying it is improving their work, an objective and quantifiable return on investment of the KM initiative continues to elude us. Developing such an evaluation of KM is something that we hope to develop going forward, and we hope the next update of the M&E Guide will include more high-level impact indicators. Two challenges are posed for the future of the KM M&E Guide:

Objective measurement: A serious challenge that we face is in developing ways to objectively measure outcomes related to our work in KM. We can count the number of outputs (products developed, number of downloads, etc.), but many of the current measurement tools focused on outcomes are based on subjective user feedback (i.e., intended users who report…). This is helpful, but it limits our ability to assess definitively and comprehensively the ultimate impact of our KM efforts.

Measuring KM’s return on investment: KM has the potential to reduce costs by decreasing the time it takes for people to do their work, but how can we quantify this in meaningful and practical ways to compare with the resources needed to build and participate in a robust KM system? Further, it is even more difficult to measure some of the less-tangible return on investment that KM initiatives may generate, such as job satisfaction, organizational culture and morale, and learning.