Embracing the idea of open knowledge is a major opportunity for governments and public institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean to increase the impact of the resources they dedicate to producing knowledge, strengthen their ability to engage their citizens, and to gain new ideas.
Knowledge that can’t be used is useless. This reflection is especially important for knowledge produced with public funding, which as such should be a public good. Unfortunately, it is all too often the case that knowledge is generated only to be left inaccessible to others whom it could benefit. This includes articles, papers, and books, but the concept applies to tacit knowledge as well, such as the experience gained executing a complex project.
Open access policies, adopting open licenses, and open repository development are powerful ways to embrace open knowledge. However, these are all complex undertakings that generally involve many actors, and are not always easy to realize. If you create knowledge (and you most certainly do), there are steps you can take right now! Here are a few points to keep in mind:
Know what you want to ultimately achieve
Always keep in mind the change that you want to effect as a result of the knowledge that you create. Create a simple vision statement and refer to it frequently, not only will it keep you focused, it will help when developing messages, and maybe even tweets or taglines. For example, the IDB’s digiLAC, a site for measuring broadband penetration in Latin America and the Caribbean, is guided by the vision “connecting societies for more opportunities” and the knowledge created as part of the initiative keeps this idea present.
Know why you’re doing this
Be explicit in defining the impact you want to have with the knowledge you produce. If your purpose focuses on production as the objective, try again. In other words, less “To produce a high-quality case study that people will learn from” and more “Increase the impact of future projects through the documentation and application of lessons already learned in previous projects”.
Give your audience something useful
Understand who can benefit from the knowledge that you create and tailor your message and language for their understanding. Find out how your audience digests information and develop a narrative that will resonate with them in particular. For example, the Mexican government understood that their audience for open data is seeking participation and collaboration, so their open data portal allows for voting, feedback, and input from citizens.
Use Social Media and the other tools at your disposal
Don’t like Twitter? Not a fan of Facebook? That’s fine, but remember that your audience probably is, which makes social media platforms great tools for sharing knowledge. Check out, for instance, how the World Economic Forum connects with its audiences via social media. In addition to posting regularly in its blog, it uses Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Google+ to disseminate high quality, professionally curated content about economic development around the world.
Does your institution have a knowledge repository? Use it! Take advantage of other free tools like Google Scholar for increasing access to your publications. Since you understand the audience you want to reach, you know where they are and where you need to be.
To be most effective these points should be considered before you produce a particular knowledge product, but in a pinch you could retroactively reflect and still improve the impact of the knowledge you generate. You can even dig up old papers and articles and give them new life by applying the ideas above.
Knowledge should be a public good, shared as widely as possible in order to realize its full potential impact. How do you make sure people can use the knowledge you produce? What other tips should we keep in mind?
Kyle Strand is a Senior Knowledge Management Specialist in the Knowledge, Innovation, and Communication Sector of the IDB. Since 2007, his work has focused on initiatives to improve access to knowledge within the IDB as well as in the LAC Region. He works to promote the idea of software as a knowledge product to be reused and adapted for development, and works to integrate the use of artificial intelligence and natural language processing as the frontier of knowledge management. Kyle is an economist from the University of Michigan and holds a master's degree in Latin American Studies from the George Washington University in Washington, DC.
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