If a tree falls in the woods does it make a sound? Well, if there is no one there for the sound to reach, what difference does it make? In the same spirit, if your knowledge never reaches anyone else, how much of a difference can it make?
To help your knowledge have an impact we share some recommendations to help you create a knowledge dissemination strategy based on this handy guide. This is a tool that I use here at the IDB, and is something that you could use as an organization, as a team, or even as an individual.
The only prerequisite to using this tool is that you identify a specific topic where you have (or plan to have) a body of knowledge that you want to disseminate. In the IDB we’ve used this approach with a wide variety of topics ranging from “Rental Housing” to “Productive Development Policies”.
Below I outline the foundational steps that you can follow to disseminate your knowledge.
1 Why are you doing this?
To create focus, make your raison d’être explicit. Reflect on these two questions and use them to create a succinct vision statement.
- What is the change in the world that you want to effect?
- What does the desired future state look like?
To complement your vision statement, develop a simple purpose statement that defines what you will do with this knowledge, for whom, and why.
2 Where are you now?
To get where you want to be, you need to know where you are; just think about how GPS provides directions! Vis-à-vis your purpose, list the opportunities and threats that exist beyond your immediate sphere of influence, and then list the strengths and weaknesses that are under your direct or indirect control and can be.
3 Where do you want to be?
The reason for developing a strategy is to achieve clarity, and this requires knowing where you want to go. Building upon the previous steps, write down specific goals (2 to 3) that you want to work towards over the next 12 months, and where disseminating this knowledge will play an important role. For each goal that you define, write down what it would look like if you were successful.
4 Who can help you get there?
Now that you know where you’re going, need to think about what audiences you need to engage in order to achieve your strategic goals, and make a list of the most relevant 3 to 5.
5 What do you need from them?
In order to reach an audience, you need to think about how they see the world, and try to understand their perspective, their priorities and their needs. In other words, you need to empathize. Taking inspiration from a design thinking mindset, use the questions below to craft a profile for each of your target audiences.
- What problem are they facing, from their perspective? (Put yourself in their shoes.)
- What specific action do you want this audience to take?
- What message would resonate most with their particular interests, needs and biases, and motivate them to take that action? (What’s the conversation starter?)
After you’ve gone through this exercise, the final step is to put together an action plan to help you implement the strategy. Identify 3 – 5 dissemination activities that will support the strategic goals you’ve defined. Don’t forget to include a target date, a measure of success, and who is responsible for making sure that it happens!
Have you used this approach or another one to develop a dissemination strategy?
By Kyle Strand, Knowledge Manager in the Knowledge and Learning Department of the Inter-American Development Bank.