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  • Writer's pictureClara Richards

Knowledge and policy-making: the importance of thinking about how to concretely manage knowledge and

Based on the “Leaders of change: developing Latin American policymakers’ capacity to promote the use of knowledge in policy” online course, I have been able to identify three lessons related to my work as a professional working in the Department of Studies, Assessment and Knowledge Management of the Chilean Solidarity and Social Investment Fund (FOSIS). This department is mainly in charge of developing research related to the institution programmatic interventions, and providing relevant, timely information to workers in order to facilitate poverty and social vulnerability analyses.

Lesson 1: factors involved in the use of evidence in the public sector – knowledge management

There are several factors that influence the use of evidence in the public sector. At the Solidarity and Social Investment Fund (FOSIS) one of the most relevant factors is the informality of the knowledge management system.

In my institution, we generate large quantities of knowledge; however, there is little knowledge circulation among work units, or it is stored and made available in several files and/or IT systems, which is difficult for workers to have an efficient, simple access to said data.

The concrete action the institution shall implement in order to address this factor, in which I am directly involved, is defining a knowledge management model with the core object of providing institutional knowledge circulation spaces that allow FOSIS workers to obtain, transmit and acquire knowledge or experience to better develop their tasks.  To do so, we are already working on a model that includes a diagnostic stage, goal setting, production media and channels, storage and release, as well as a follow-up and assessment stage.

During the first stage we define a preliminary diagnosis of the knowledge management situation within the institution; in order to validate it, during the second half of the year, we will have an external research study carried out by a specialized consulting firm.  One of the expected results of this study is to obtain an institutional knowledge map and a diagnosis of knowledge circulation and management practices, as well as to identify the knowledge circulation media and channels most suitable for the institutional culture.

This study aims at knowing the appropriateness of the model we are building, and to do so it shall collect information from workers through a participatory approach, inviting them to build our knowledge management model.

Lesson 2: internal knowledge generation and use information systems

Very related to the previous lesson is the need to have IT systems that allow us to access the necessary data to be used in decision-making processes about an organization, program or policy.

At FOSIS there are several information systems that allow us to record different actions carried out within the scope of the social programs we implement. This multiplicity of information sources that makes the preparation of integrated evidence difficult.

For example, we have a system that manages the financial-accounting aspects of the use of resources in social programs, which is governed by State regulations; there is also a simultaneous system that records the use of programmatic offer investments as well as a system that records said program user data. These systems make the analysis of impact unit cost more complex. Besides, each tool is in charge of a different unit within the organization, which makes the preparation of integrated information more difficult.

In response to this situation, between 2015 and 2017, the institution shall implement a larger system that will integrate different information software programs, both those related to administrative processes as well as those related to social programs, which will facilitate access to information and allow it to be shared among the different areas of the organization.

Among the risks or difficulties identified in relation to this process are, above all, the commitment of project leaders and resistance to change within the organization. In order to strengthen and maintain the commitment of project leaders, this project has been agreed upon and validated by them during the different stages, besides, one of them has become the head of the project with the support of the executive management.

As regards resistance to change, we have designed a change management process which, in an initial stage, takes into account worker awareness, information and involvement in the process.

The concrete action contributed by the Department of Studies, Assessment and Knowledge Management  to this process will be working on the integration of the new system with the new management model we are implementing in order to contribute to facilitate knowledge circulation within the organization. To do so, we shall work with the engineers in charge of the process in order to know the different possibilities of the knowledge production, storage and circulation system.

Lesson 3: detecting and creating attractive, convincing messages

An essential factor when presenting evidence to decision makers is the effectiveness in communicating the message, i.e. it is important not only to provide the necessary information, but also to create a message that “reaches” the decision maker.

The department I work for is devoted to preparing research studies and assessments of the institution social programs, i.e., its job is to present evidence. Some result presentations are very technical in nature; therefore, they do not take into account the decision maker’s point of view.

The action I can implement is designing a guideline that is applied before presentations are made and that analyzes: What we want to say and to whom, the clarity and consistency of arguments, which the essential aspects are and why the information may be interesting to the intended recipient.  This will help us create messages that are easy to process and that make sense to those in charge of a decision-making process.

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