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How do Organisations Learn and Grow? The One Thing You Must Know

Can you guess where persons consider to be the most trusted sources to get information on best and effective practises in development work?

Let’s play a game. It will only take a few minutes of your time.

From a survey persons were asked ‘What are your most trusted sources for practice knowledge that inform your work? Try and rank their responses in the following table from 1 – 9. The Most Trusted Source should be scored as 1 and the Least Trusted Source should be scored as 9.

Spoiler Alert! The actual result is given below the able, so if you decide to play the game, make a note of your own answers before reading on.

Watching paint dry while you finish this exercise ;-)

Are You Ready For This?

Turns out that the most persons believe that the most trusted source for information on best/effective practices comes from their peers and colleagues. Information gathered from external conferences and emails/newsletters came second and third respectively.

How did you do?

However, these are not just my words. These findings are from a recent study that surveyed more than 700 development staff and board members as well as interviewed 70 persons. The research was undertaken by the Harder+Community Research and Edge Research for the Hewlett Foundation.

The figure below shows the percentages based on the responses given by persons in the sample.

Figure 1:

Figure 1 is reproduced from ‘Peer to Peer: At the Heart of Influencing More Effective Philanthropy’ , 2017

If you managed to read this far into the blog post, let’s continue with our game. Can you figure out what the non-grey bars in the above chart have in common?

If you said that that the non-grey bars all had to do with some form of human or face-to-face interaction, then you are right! Apparently the ‘personal touch’ is perceived to be a far more trusted source (at least where knowledge on best/effective practices is concerned). These ‘tactile’ sources were referenced more often that sources that were in a written or ‘static’ format.

The level of familiarity with the source is also a factor. The same study found that persons were far more likely to act upon the information if the source is someone that they know and/or previously worked with.

So what does all of this mean for organisations that want to use evidence-based research and evaluations to enhance learning on best practices, influence policy, push innovation and increase the level of engagement among its staff and other stakeholders?

Far from being about guessing games, this blog post highlights the importance of having a learning strategy that goes beyond churning out written publications such as evaluations and White Papers. Documenting the ‘evidence’ is just the start. It should not end there.

A more effective strategy for sharing knowledge is one that also employs elements of more ‘intimate’ human interaction rather than a ‘cold’, generic e-mail from unknown persons. Practical examples include hosting of webinars, seminars, conferences, stakeholder meeting and establishing Communities of Practices (COP). In sum, anything that builds relationships, fosters exchanges and interaction in ‘real time’ is more effective for the dissemination of knowledge and learning.

What do you think of the finding of the study? Please feel free to share your opinion and experience in enhancing learning within your organisation in the Comments section below.

Publications consulted for this article:

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​​​Ann-Murray Brown

Monitoring, Evaluation and
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