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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.

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.

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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