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The Master of Science in Information and Knowledge Strategy Journey Begins

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I accepted a new challenge that starts tomorrow. I begin my studies to become a Master of Science in Information and Knowledge Strategy at Columbia University. I am participating in this program to deepen my understanding of the role knowledge plays in organizations, and how to embrace it as an asset that positively impacts organizations’ top line. I expect all that I learn from the IKnS program to serve as a catalyst that enables me to achieve goals that are most important to me.

Below, please find my statement of academic purpose I submitted as part of my application to Columbia University’s Master of Science in Information and Knowledge Strategy program.

I aspire to become an international business leader and entrepreneur who utilizes existing knowledge to develop economic, health and education systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. Learning from the pioneering cadre of faculty, students and advisors in the Master of Science in Information and Knowledge Strategy program at Columbia University will help me advance my career. I am confident that the program’s design will bridge my professional experience to my professional goals.

The well-rounded coursework offered by the program will build on my unique experience working in knowledge management for an international development project. It will improve my expertise as a knowledge strategist to build systems to meet objectives in the private and public sectors.

I have identified project management as an area I am particularly interested in growing under the Information and Knowledge Strategy program. I recently managed exciting and complex projects that could have been executed more efficiently with knowledge from the Information and Knowledge Strategy program. I implemented a storytelling project in Ghana, Tanzania and Ethiopia, established knowledge management processes in Kenya, and designed and led a knowledge management workshop for the Government of Nigeria’s National Agency for the Control of AIDS Strategic Knowledge Management team.

These projects strengthened my desire to consult and apply deeper meaning to information I have collected and shared thus far. This program will provide me with theoretical structure that supports strategic information and knowledge practices for organizations.

If admitted, I am presented with opportunity to learn from the collective expertise of the program’s faculty and students. This will help me build skills, such as project management, that complement business leaders’ knowledge strategy needs. The Information and Knowledge Strategy program’s comprehensive coverage of business management will force me to think strategically and systematically, and in turn, build successful businesses that leverage knowledge. Learning from my cohort and people who are successful at what I want to do is vital to my ability to lead in business across multiple sectors.

The program’s authority on knowledge networks is attractive to me. I have a strong interest in building a network I can learn from and contribute to as I continue my professional journey. If admitted, I intend to build relationships with my cohort and improve networks to which I belong. I currently co-lead the Health Information Publication Network (HIPNet), a 600-member community of global health communicators. I can share my experience from HIPNet and strengthen the network as a resource for its members.
I have a particular interest in agencies that support communication work in Sub-Saharan Africa. I would like to improve my understanding of how communication projects for development are designed and resourced. I am assured the Information and Knowledge Strategy program can expose me to economic, health and education development in Sub-Saharan Africa by presenting research, coursework and capstone projects that cover knowledge operations in development banks and foundations. The program’s connections with industry leaders who have worked globally will strengthen my network and ability to develop my career.

I expect the Information and Knowledge Strategy program will sharpen my ability to author practical knowledge and establish myself as a thought-leader. In the spirit of documenting and sharing lessons learned, I co-authored “Knowledge Management for Data Use and Decision Making in International Public Health.” The rigorous process of writing this paper exposed me to co-authorship, literature review, and publication. The reciprocal benefits of publishing the paper led to speaking engagements, a stronger professional network, and improved professional speaking skills.

I am fortunate to have worked with content management systems, Intranet development, Web site design, and web conferencing software to connect people to knowledge. While I find operating these technologies intuitive, I can greatly benefit from specialized instruction in information architecture. The Information and Knowledge Strategy program will provide me with greater insight on how to select appropriate platforms for global knowledge networks, know when customization is necessary, and ensure users are able to retrieve the information and knowledge they need to perform.

By completing the Master of Science in Information and Knowledge Strategy program at Columbia University, I will have learned from the rich diversity of faculty and students, positioned myself to advance the role of communication in development, and contribute to the betterment of multiple fields so that Sub-Saharan Africa may improve business communication and use knowledge to do so.

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Pugh & Prusak’s 8 Design Dimensions and the RELACSIS Network

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A Framework for Knowledge Network Effectiveness

A Framework for Knowledge Network Effectiveness by Katrina Pugh and Larry Prusak

Designing Effective Knowledge Networks by Katrina Pugh and Larry Prusak is both relevant and timely for me and the work I am doing with public health-related knowledge networks. (Pugh, K., Prusak, L. Designing effective knowledge networks. MIT Sloan management review 55.1 2013: 79-88. MIT Press. 18 Dec 2013.) I work to build and nurture sustainable knowledge networks and communities of practice that are focused on strengthening health systems in various regions and countries. Over the past five years of working with these groups, I am drawn to how planning and design facilitate desired behaviors and outcomes. While plans serve as a blueprint for constructing a knowledge network, these eight design dimensions by Pugh and Prusak inform its architecture:

The Eight Design Dimensions of Knowledge Networks

  1. Leaders’ shared theory of change
  2. Objectives/outcomes/purpose
  3. Role of expertise and experimental learning (a.k.a. “the expert-learner duality”)
  4. Inclusion and participation
  5. Operating model
  6. Convening structures and infrastructures
  7. Facilitation and social norm development
  8. Measurement, feedback and incentives

I choose to examine RELACSIS, a network that joins health information system professionals based in Latin American and Caribbean countries. The purpose of RELACSIS is to “generate a mechanism to articulate the regional efforts that contribute to the improvement of the HIS among the participants in the Network.” While members share their health system strengthening efforts via discussion boards and annual meetings, knowledge sharing activities and collaboratively developed products, such as guidelines and courses, are key outputs. After understanding practices that strengthen the health system, the network mobilizes human and financial resources to member countries to fill knowledge gaps. According to Pugh and Prusak’s types of knowledge network goals, RELACSIS works towards coordination.

According to Pugh and Prusak, a goal with a coordination outcome “leverages members’ existing knowledge activities through its structures, incentives and norms.” For example, RELACSIS leverages knowledge activities through working groups, member recognition and constant communication. Members submit questions and insight in working groups. They are recognized for their best practices and achievements at annual meetings. Members stay in constant communication through email, Skype and discussion boards between annual meetings.

As a result of coordinating activities, RELACSIS has influenced measurable change in member country health systems. For example, Mexico adopted an electronic system to assist coding causes of death developed by the United States. After Mexico implemented the system, health officials shared their experiences with Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Uruguay and Venezuela. Through RELACSIS, the countries developed work plans to implement the system with assistance from the Mexican health officials. Technical assistance delivered to Chile resulted in a centralized, electronic coding process and changes to encoders’ job functions through integration of data analysis and assessment activities.

Behaviors are “those that are conducive to outcomes: cohesion, demonstration of trust, connection sharing, using a common technology platform and making investments in collaboration.” Members of RELACSIS connect through discussion boards on the RELACSIS website and conduct Skype calls to discuss and implement their annual work plans. In conversations I have had with the Network leaders, they have emphasized the importance the discussion boards play: they keep all questions and answers in a central location and link members to knowledge sources. Trust is not established virtually. According to Pugh’s Trusting in Us, member of display collaboration in a way that sacrifices individual goals for the common good. This behavior is one of five in a functioning network. RELACSIS members invest time to collaboratively develop training materials, coding systems, and provide technical assistance.

Following annual meetings, members of RELACSIS apply concepts and methods they learned. Working groups discuss key implementation challenges and solutions via the website’s discussion boards. This is a systematic feedback loop that sustains collaboration, and peer-support. According to Pugh and Prusak, members who voluntarily use a working platform (such as discussion boards) have a distinct behavior of a functioning network.

In my observation, much of RELACSIS’ success can be attributed to commitment displayed by the network’s leaders. The leaders listen to member’s greatest collective challenges and work to make connections to technical know-how that exists in the regions. I also commend the leadership for continuously identifying and inviting practitioners into the network who can not only contribute, but also gain new knowledge. These conditions, established by leadership, trigger the networks dynamics, and set behaviors into motion.

In conclusion, RELACSIS’ facilitates behaviors and lead to desirable knowledge network outcomes such as coordination, learning, local adaptation, and support of individual members. Consistent strategy, structure, and tactics should perpetuate the network’s effectiveness.

Strategic
  1. Leaders’ shared theory of change
The core team of network leaders model desired behavior by using the online discussion boards and make regular contact with members.
  1. Objectives/outcomes/purpose
The networks purpose, desired outcomes and objectives were initially defined at a launch meeting in Lima, Peru in 2010. These are documented and displayed on the website.
Structural
  1. Role of expertise and experimental learning (a.k.a. “the expert-learner duality”
Leaders are clear about establishing a safe environment for even experts to express knowledge needs and for the learners to share bold possibilities. After each presentation in the face-to-face meeting, the floor is open for discussion and deliberation.
  1. Inclusion and participation
To my knowledge, different profiles for different levels of participation do not exist. Participants are invited based on their involvement in strengthening their country’s health information system.
  1. Operating model
Working groups work toward solutions between annual face-to-face meetings. Decisions are made in country teams, regional teams and among core leadership.
  1. Convening structures and infrastructures
The network utilizes annual face-to-face meetings, Skype, and web conferencing software to convene.
Tactical
  1. Facilitation and social norm development
I am not aware of specific facilitation approaches that are used. Per my understanding there is a strong collaborative and knowledge sharing tone that begins with core leadership and echoed throughout the network.
  1. Measurement, feedback and incentives
A newer network member, representative from Trinidad and Tobago, won a prize at the annual meeting for his presentation about the country’s electronic health management information system. The award was an incentive for his contribution. Every quarter, the following statistics are collected: cumulative number of listserv registrants, number of threads, number of posts, and number of contributors. These help measure interest in the network and discussion topics.

The Reunión: Network Collaboration in Practice

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members working together to identify components of their national health information systems that they would like to make a priority.

This week, I had the unique opportunity to join the V Reunión de RELACSIS in Mexico City, Mexico that brought 80 people together from 25 Latin American and Caribbean countries. Attendees were mostly public health professionals who determine how best to implement practices that will strengthen and improve their country’s health systems. Many components of the health information system were discussed from electronic patient record keeping, to medical coding, to national epidemiological data.

Health Information System – a set of components and procedures organized with the objective of generating information that will improve health care management decisions at all levels of the health system –Lippeveld et al. 2000

The most lively discussions were prompted by exchange of how-to knowledge — how records are kept; how coding is taught; how epidemiological data is collected; and how to communicate data to policy makers. This was a meeting of professionals who share ground-truth experiences. Presenters equally shared practices that worked well and not so well, mentorship experiences and standard operating procedures.

See V Reunión RELACSIS meeting presentations

I had the pleasure of witnessing true knowledge management in practice that incorporates people, process and technology.

First, the right people were in the room. The participants share a common passion to build systems that will eventually afford the best care to their country’s populations. They also share common practices from epidemiology to statistics, and from information management to demography. Discussions are facilitated by dedicated health information system specialists. They also serve as the networks champions, who advocate for country-led health system development.

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the network updating itself.

Second, RELACSIS follows the classic, cyclical knowledge management process:

  1. Knowledge generation – Countries implement interventions to close system gaps found in national health system assessments.
  2. Knowledge capture – Countries capture health system strengthening experiences in the form of posters, conference presentations, and publications. Professionals within the network who possess specific expertise are identified so that they can be contacted by countries who demand certain knowledge for development.
  3. Knowledge synthesis – Learning materials in various subject mattes (i.e. ICD-10 coding, communication) are developed by network members for network members and their colleagues.
  4. Knowledge sharing – Members share what they have learned and practices that work via the network website and at the annual face-to-face meeting.
  5. Knowledge assessment – Approaches and techniques to strengthening various components of the health system are documented and shared for countries to reference in their development process.

Lastly, RELACSIS leverages technology to share and collaboratively develop information products and provide ongoing mentorship.  Between face-to-face meetings, the network joins virtually to discuss action items identified in the agreed upon work plan. The network used a mix of communication platforms including discussion forums on www.RELACSIS.org, Skype, Illuminate, email and phone. The website is hosted and programmer is based at el Instituto Nacional de Salud Publica in Cuernavaca, Mexico and the content manager is based in Argentina.

IMG_2892

the RELACSIS web programmer and content manager/graphic designer

Working virtually has proven to be quite effective. For example, an online learning tool was developed collaboratively with participation from the Commission National Classification of Diseases and PAHO representatives of Argentina, Collaborating Center for the Family WHO International Classifications in Mexico, the Ministry of Public Health of Uruguay, and PAHO/WHO and MEASURE Evaluation of the United States of America. The course is designed to raise awareness of and provide medical training in proper cause of death documentation in Spanish-speaking countries.

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Screen shot of an interactive course collaboratively developed virtually for the RELACSIS network

In my opinion, RELACSIS serves as an excellent model of South-to-South, country-led health system development. Many global health pros are scratching their heads on how to achieve this. RELACSIS members identify strengths and weaknesses of national health information systems, learn lessons from member countries, set development priorities as sub-regions, then agree on work plans as one networked region. Human and financial resources found in national health and multi-lateral agencies are identified to help put the work plan into action.

It is important for me to emphasize that RELACSIS is not to be defined by its website, or its face-to-face meetings. It is a network of people who share a common practice and are working together towards a common goal. The rich knowledge exchange is the very essence of this community.

As a knowledge manager, I find the RELACSIS experience to be refreshing and motivating. This network demonstrates how coordination among subject-matter experts, based in “South” countries, who lead health development efforts is totally possible.

Overwhelmingly, participants agreed these efforts could not be possible without political will, commitment and passion to succeed.

…innovation comes from social scenes, from passionate and connected groups of people” said Kevin Kelly in a September 2010 conversation with Wired on “Where Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation.

For your reference, here are a couple links to background reading on health system strengthening in Latin America and the Caribbean and the RELACSIS network:

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Two members of the MEASURE Evaluation team knee-deep in HIS and KM

I would like to thank my colleague, Beatriz Plaza, for extending a meeting invitation to me, and for consistently contributing her RELACSIS experiences to the annual MEASURE Evaluation Community of Practice Moderators’ Summit of which I lead.

Written by Leah Denise Wyatt

November 15, 2013 at 12:19 am

What is a Community of Practice?

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A Community of Practice is a group of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis. CoPs come together face-to-face and virtually to share and to learn from one another. They are held together by a common interest in a body of knowledge and are driven by a desire and a need to share problems, experiences, insights, tools, and best practices (Wenger, Snyder, and McDermott, 2002).

I highly recommend “Cultivating Communities of Practice” to all knowledge managers, information gatherers and officers. This book has helped me articulate and measure the value of CoPs to my organization. It also uncovered challenges CoPs face and offers solutions and comprehensive case studies as examples.

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Are you part of a community of practice? How do you choose to deepen your knowledge and expertise?

Written by Leah Denise Wyatt

April 26, 2013 at 4:44 pm

The established presence: How to maintain it, grow it and show it!

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notes from GHKC Knowledge Share Fair

notes from GHKC Knowledge Share Fair

Today, I attended the Global Health Knowledge Collaborative Knowledge Management Share Fair. I was asked to facilitate three 15-minute small group discussions during a 60-minute afternoon concurrent session on “Measuring more than ‘likes’ and ‘follows’: Maximizing the potential of social media. Each facilitator developed their own sub-topic.  The topic I chose was titled: “The established presence: How to maintain it, grow it and show it.”

I chose this topic of discussion in response to my observation of progress individuals, organizations and projects working in global public health have made on online communication in the past five years.

In this discussion, I described one’s web presence to online real estate. The manner in which one uses websites and social media accounts can determine the size of their footprint.

What are the characteristics of an established web presence?

This is the first question I asked the discussion groups. Participants among the three 15-minute discussions agreed  consistency in the following areas are characteristics of an established web presence:

  • Credible and reliable information
  • Subject-matter search terms are associated with individuals/organization/project in search engine results
  • Presentation of information
  • Website visitor patterns
  • Vision, mission and purpose

How do you maintain an established presence? 

This question consumed the majority of the discussion during all three periods. Among the three discussions, participants agreed:

  • Refer to a communication strategy, which is essential
  • Engage with and among users, which is key
  • Foster reciprocity among community members using dynamic online communication
  • Use solicited feedback from users to inform future online communication process

Due to the lively discussion, I was unable to ask follow up questions on how and why individuals/organizations/projects grow their established presence and what data is used to show establishment.

Do you have thoughts on this? If so, please share. We can continue the discussion here.

Thank you to all participants who visited my table and thank you to co-facilitators @rickimac @socialbttrfly @jzoltner and thank you to @rebecca_shore for bringing us together!

Written by Leah Denise Wyatt

April 16, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Protected: Shot in the Heart of Durham

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Written by Leah Denise Wyatt

August 31, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Your trade secrets? I don’t think so.

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This post serves to present a case for buying locally and offers a buy beware:

I just had a tail-spin conversation with a company by the name of Egumbull. I am representing Mr. Collins, a 18-year small business owner of an auto shop in Durham, North Carolina. He is located on one of the most heaviest traffic intersections in they city. After  explaining to Mr. Collins that I show small businesses how to improve their SEO using Google products that are free to them and how to make their branding more consistent, he asked me to Google the phrase “auto repair.” He did  not show up.

Mr. Collins, a well read, slow spoken man from Orange County, North Carolina describes himself as a “country boy.” Tonight he told me, “I know I’m country, they just don’t know that.” As Mr. Collins said “they” he pointed to the phone’s receiver.

Mr. Collins owns Collins Exxon, is a busy mechanic, 48, and trying to understand social media.

After slowing down, and listening to Mr. Collins, I was able to understand that Mr. Collins paid for a service to boost his SEO and needed his contract to know why his business name wasn’t showing up in Google. He had agreed to pay $155.00 for 12-months and needed some answers. Mr. Collins also needed way to see monthly progress.

In exchange for changing the air-filters on my car, I agreed to sit in on a call with Mr. Collins, representing him as his communications person, with the Californian company he is paying to improve his SEO. The work he performed, at what I was quoted equates to my regular small business rate. Not a bad barter.

The California “dudes,” not understanding his slow, country-boy, southern accent, rushed Mr. Collins as he tried to explain himself. I patiently waited while Mr. Collins explained his problem in every detail to the impatient customer service reps. After they bounced him around, I offered to handle the call. I explained to the reps Mr. Collins did not have a copy of his contract and would like to understand what he is paying for.

After the reps picked up on my online communication and social media savvy, they grew suspicious. I simply went through the routine of asking questions. Questions facilitate conversation.

Egumbull, already accused of scamming businesses according to Ripoff Report, accused me of wanting their trade secrets. I don’t think so. I know I have a model that works. I am very confident in it.

After what I went through tonight, Egumbull, you helped confirm my model works. You didn’t take time to listen, nor to communicate. Furthermore, I witnessed you treat Mr. Collins, your customer, very poorly. You hung up on him multiple times, bounced him around and made snide remarks. The “customer service” was simply deplorable.

To SEO companies: work with small businesses in regions where you understand the language and vernacular of the people. You aren’t helping small businesses succeed by not understanding their communication needs, you’re hurting them — in the pocket.

Egumball Ripped off a Durham business owner

To small businesses: do not hire “SEO consultants” who are not from your region, nor take the time to listen to your true business needs. Make sure the company you choose will communicate in your language in real time. If you communicate best with a consultant at a coffee shop, in your hair shop, or in your auto repair shop, hire them. Hire a consultant that will listen to what you want to accomplish with your business.

Choose a consultant that will help you realize your dreams. Hire consultants that will educate you in social media, teach you how to use it, how their children use it, how their customers use it and then, how networking helps bring people into your store. Do not trust consultants that will just say “they’ll increase your SEO and get you topped ranked in Google, here’s a pen, sign this contract.” Lastly, choose consultants with a positive reputation and track record. All my business is based on referrals.

I believe in small business, and I believe in free Google products for small businesses. I believe in communication and I believe in the beauty of words.

I don’t need your trade secrets.

I grew up on the West Coast (from Portland, Oregon) and spent many summers in Orange County, California.

After spending six years in North Carolina, I am continuously learning how to COMMUNICATE with people in the southeast. This is a must for me because I am choosing to grow my business here. To add, I made a choice to Marry Durham.

I am very invested in the local economy — I am choosing to grow a consultancy that helps elevate small businesses by telling their stories and their rich histories in the best electronic communication format that will reach the customers they serve.

Today, I sat in Mr. Collins shop to get an understanding of his client base. I watched a video he took and uploaded to YouTube of people playing the blues and making fun of Elvis in his auto shop. What other auto shop have you been to where you can sit and listen to blues live?

Your can see videos of Mr. Collins’ church services and a basketball team he coaches. This is a small business owner and a community member that can benefit most from a someone who truly understands the community and small business owners’ needs.

Written by Leah Denise Wyatt

December 22, 2011 at 12:23 am