Knowledge & Quality Management

Overview/Background

Today, excellence in handling knowledge is a key success factor.

The formation of BORDA was guided by people sharing the vision of renewable energy’s potential for poverty alleviation. The driving forces were individuals from university, administration, trade and the service sector with technical, social or commercial backgrounds.

They had nothing to offer but their willingness to put their knowledge and professional skills into a new context of voluntary commitment aimed at breaking new ground in development partnerships.

Since then, knowledge has been BORDA’s key asset, its management through research, collection, editing and circulation one of its core lines of action.

The Challenge

Meeting the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 in terms of water, sanitation and energy coverage will require a dramatic scaling-up of efforts—dramatic in terms of both the extent of action required and the speed with which these actions must be undertaken.

The financial, governance, and capacity constraints low-income countries face will make this a complicated challenge. Scaling-up service delivery in the poorest countries will require unprecedented short-term action, as well as a focus on building the management systems needed to implement large-scale programs over the medium term and to sustain the gains made over the long term.

It will also require a departure from “business as usual” on the part of all key actors, and new approaches that center on decentralization, transparency in budgetary allocations, and massive capacity building efforts right down to the village level. This dramatic scaling-up of efforts that meeting the ambitious Millennium Development Goals and targets entails, will require very significant investments, both in infrastructure and in institutional strengthening and reform.

Working over 25 years in three continents with a multitude of cooperation and network partners, we know how crucial it is that know-how does not stay locked up in filing cabinets or remains the domain of individual ‘experts’ who consider it their personal property.

Demand

Expanding water & sanitation or energy coverage is not rocket science. There are technical solutions to most of today’s challenges. However, those who are in need of an appropriate solution often do not have access to it. Furthermore, technology is important but often not the decisive factor when it comes to secure people’s access to basic but self-sustaining services like water or sanitation.

There is a huge demand for capacity building among key stakeholders passing on systematically the required knowledge for sustainable dissemination and efficient implementation, operation and maintenance of innovative basic need service packages. Involved institutions include formal organizations such as utilities and local governments, less formal associations such as village or community based committees. Furthermore, systematic information about scope and impact of these basic need service packages from local up to national level is a prerequisite to achieve their commitment and support.

Principles

To firmly anchor knowledge management within BORDA and its implementing partners, an operationalised knowledge-management strategy has been introduced throughout the organisation.

Every product (e.g. decentralised energy supply) is under the responsibility of a product manager who acts as a knowledge broker, pooling expertise throughout the organisation.

In addition to this are regional sector networks where field staff in partner countries work together to share experience and assure that there is a smooth information flow both on site and with BORDA Head Office in Bremen, Germany.

Technology/Tools

Today, BORDA and its partners are continuously up-grading and adapting service-concepts to existing demands so that decentralized basic need services become viable options for political decision-makers and planners.

Periodical evaluation of project outputs and lessons learnt exercises contribute to develop good practices on regional level. Once a year, regional team leaders are gathering to systematically exchange and transfer lessons learned across borders and continents.

ICT support instruments are consecutively introduced– for example, a knowledge base and document management system - ensuring that both technical and project information are accessible at any time worldwide.

Benefits

There are internal and external benefits, such as:

• Internal-1:
The knowledge we can access as an organisation, the efficiency with which we use it and our willingness to obtain new knowledge as well as share and apply existing knowledge is a permanent competitive advantage.
• Internal-2:
There are regional sector networks where field staff in partner countries work together to share experience and assure that there is a smooth information flow both on site and with BORDA Head Office in Bremen, Germany
• Internal-3
Access to lessons learnt and good practices improves the quality of ‘products’ (e.g. community based sanitation) and ‘processes’ (e.g. strategic expansion towards new partnerships and areas) continuously. This contributes to setting certifiable standards and benchmarks in terms of quality management.

• External-1:
web-based download areas enhance the public outreach and provide people outside the acting partner network access to information relevant to their field of interest (in forms of publications, presentations
• External-2:
People across different countries and continents get access to knowledge by using modern communication technology in the form of web-based online-training programs. With this innovative method of virtual teaching and knowledge management, the participants share their knowledge, their professional experience and technical skills within a training course and contribute to increasing the number of multipliers in the relevant sector.