SMR’s August 26th post described the work of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) in helping Pakistanis, as the flood disaster moves into the post-disaster recovery phase.
Pakistani Floods: KM/Knowledge Services at Work provides strategic knowledge managers with a dramatic example of how KM/knowledge services – as a management or functional discipline – comes into play in a critical “real-life” situation. In the quote from UN-HABITAT’s staff newsletter, we learn that assessment teams will collect information on damage and then share that information with relevant partners, who will then help support the recovery. The teams are expected to deal with such essentials as land and settlement, community preferences, reconstruction, housing types and cost, local knowledge, and availability of skills, to “build capacity for reconstruction.”
If we apply the standard definition of KM (“working with knowledge”) and move on to the three elements of knowledge services (now established as the merging of information management, KM, and strategic learning), we get a reasonable and easy-to-understand picture of what has to happen to get affected people through a crisis. In this case knowledge services precedes classical KM, for the assessment teams will have been gathering and managing information and digging into strategic learning before they start “working with” the knowledge they acquire.
And that strategic learning? Is it really the big deal the phrase implies? Not at all. In the lecture hall or the professional development workshop, we cryptically describe strategic learning as anything you learn and share that helps you do your job better. And the U.N. descriptor for this situation is even better: what we call strategic learning, these experts simply call capacity building.
So the pieces are all there, and while most situations in which strategic knowledge professionals use their skills and share their expertise are not quite so drastic as in dealing with the Pakistan flooding, the role played by KM/knowledge services is increasingly demonstrated in everything we do. And now that we recognize that role, we move on do doing it better and better as we learn from our own experiences. In doing so, we take on our own version of capacity building – this time for KM/knowledge services.