Knowledge Management and Communications

Communicating ideas for positive development outcomes

Overview and objectives

Knowledge management and communications (KM&C) are two of ECDPM’s principal strategic tools: we seek to enhance our stakeholders’ policymaking capacity by improving access to and use of relevant information, with emphasis on institutions and countries traditionally lacking access. To this end, the KM&C units support the objectives of the Centre’s new strategy to influence and inform key global policies for positive development outcomes. The KM&C units fulfil a range of functions, providing strategic guidance and practical support to ECDPM staff, and coordinating information and publication services. The result is a range of communication tools that are tailored to meet the communication requirements of the different audiences targeted by ECDPM’s programmes and by the Centre as a whole. In order to ensure a better fit with the Centre’s operations and its evolving mandate in linking policy and practice globally, the KM&C team was split in two in 2012. We now have separate units for Knowledge Management and for Communications, while the creation of a KM&C Platform should ensure smooth coordination between the two.

Context and priorities

During 2012, ECDPM developed and adopted a new KM&C Strategy for 2012-2016. The strategy consolidates past best practices and incorporates new KM&C approaches. In line with the new strategy we identified four interdependent focal areas:

External communications

We have taken steps to further improve our external communications along three principal entry points:

  • Enhanced use of social media to enrich our policy engagement and brokerage. The launch of mechanisms such as Twitter and Facebook has widened our ability to reach out to new policy communities and greatly improved the ease with which our information can be found on the Web. Interactivity among stakeholders has also intensified.
  • Targeted interaction with journalists with a special interest in international development issues, as well as with the mainstream media more generally. 
  • A more user-friendly and modern website to enhance presentation of our work and generate increased traffic to the content we produce. 

Knowledge collaboration

In recent years, we have made efforts to map our knowledge flows, to identify bottlenecks obstructing effective teamwork and to quantify the financial losses due to inefficient use of information. This exercise highlighted a need to reorient and unify the information architecture that underpins our knowledge collaboration to enable staff members and partners to work more effectively. For this reason, we launched a number of cloud-based tools in 2012, which will improve the integration of knowledge management, communication and learning.

Monitoring reporting and learning

At a time of significant upheaval in international relations there is considerable pressure on ECDPM staff to stay ahead of the curve in their analysis of the changing policy context. Over the years, the Centre has developed a robust framework for facilitating organisational learning processes and for monitoring progress made in reaching ECDPM’s overall strategic goals. In 2012, as part of our new strategy, we took steps to link KM&C activities more closely to the Centre’s organisational learning framework and fulfil our mandate to optimise the organisational learning environment. To this end, we continued to explore ways in which in-house and peer learning might be enhanced – through staff seminars and workshops, etc. 

KM&C and ICT innovation

ECDPM has been at the forefront of innovations in the field of KM&C and ICT since the early days. However, the explosion of information and communication technologies in recent years has opened up new opportunities to further develop the Centre’s role as a knowledge broker and facilitator of policy processes. Since we are highly dependent on gathering information, communicating and taking part in global exchanges, we have continued to experiment actively with emerging tools and to incorporate them where appropriate. 

New tools for integrating knowledge management, communication and joint learning

The centrepiece of our 2012 KM&C activities was the successful launch of ECDPM’s Information Management and Knowledge Exchange (IMAKE). IMAKE is a set of information and communication tools, policies and collaborative approaches designed to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of our work. IMAKE’s range of innovations include a new document management system, a reporting database, individual and group work spaces, web-to-print facilities, and a new contacts database and external website.

An important element of the initiative was the full migration to Google Apps in 2012.This not only entailed a move to cloud-based email, calendar and instant-messaging functions, but to a new document management as well, through Google Drive and Google Docs. Introduction of the new tools was preceded by careful piloting and systemic communications; in addition, all staff members received adequate training and follow-up support to ensure a smooth transition to the new communication environment. The next step will be the introduction of Google Sites in 2013 in order to facilitate knowledge sharing among ECDPM teams as well as among partners in the context of broader networks. 

While still in its initial implementation phase, the IMAKE project is already helping to reorient our information management processes. The adoption of cloud-based solutions has made it possible to address longstanding problems with regard to information storage and retrieval by our highly mobile teams, while opening the door for intensified knowledge generation, peer exchange and learning both internally and with our partners. We have also made strides in updating and streamlining our document production processes. Most importantly, the IMAKE team brought together knowledge management, communications and IT staff members, creating a practical collaboration mechanism that we will develop in the future. Due to the success achieved in such a short time, IMAKE has become a recognised in-house brand for innovative strategic vision in the digital domain and for successful change management.

Taking external communications to the next level

Communication has changed dramatically. Information from a massively increased number of sources is now widely and easily available to everyone. And the channels through which people communicate are increasingly digitalised and personalised. As an organisation that is highly dependent on gathering information and communicating in global exchanges, ECDPM must keep adapting in order to stay at the forefront of effective knowledge management, communication and policy brokerage. The following are some highlights of our achievements in 2012:

  • Consolidating what has worked well in the past, we have improved our external communications with a focus on the strategic use of digital technologies, on interaction and collaboration with journalists and on improving the ECDPM website. High-quality, added-value content that is based on our policy work remains the basis of our work and communications – the constant objective being to enhance the quality of policymaking processes.
  • In 2012, we noticed a surge in the use of all of our communications tools, among colleagues and partners/readers alike. We are increasingly capturing our policy knowledge in succinct texts that can be easily posted or spread: our Talking Points blog articles and social media messages, for example, can nearly double staff exposure to audiences in between publications.
  • Our information is also increasingly posted on external channels that have high readership and help us reach new audiences. In 2012 we prepared several guest contributions that were published in major newspapers. Such practices have quadrupled the readers of our information in some instances.
  • The quality of the content produced through our various communication channels prompted invitations to attend meetings and enter partnerships in both traditional and new ECDPM areas of work.
  • Finally, we completely reorganised the information on our website to match and reflect our new five-year strategy. Work also started on a more modern website to increase access to our work.
ECDPM's Weekly Compass

The ECDPM Weekly Compass news bulletin is your reliable source on the latest policy issues concerning international cooperation, with a focus on the EU and its relations with countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. It is delivered to your e-mailbox Friday afternoons. It contains fresh news updates and behind-the-scenes analysis of key policy processes relating to EU external action, conflict and security, economic governance, trade and regional integration, Africa’s change dynamics and food security. The Weekly Compass is a rich source of information policy makers, analysts, activists and the private sector.

ECDPM's Talking Points Blog

ECDPM’s Talking Points blog, produced by ECDPM staff and our partners, aims to deepen exchanges on relevant policy issues. With a focus on the ‘how’ and ‘what next’ questions in international cooperation, Talking Points complements the Centre’s Weekly Compass news bulletin by offering in-depth information on selected and timely policy issues. The blog covers, among others, the following topics:

  • The changing institutional context within the EU and how this is shaping its international cooperation and the implications for developing countries.
  • Its trade relationships, particularly with the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions.
  • How Europe and its partners are adapting their international development cooperation to address broader concerns, such as issues relating to peace and security, climate change and food security.
  • How best to realise the goal of improved governance, which underpins the EU’s international cooperation agenda and which is of concern to its partners as well.

 Great Insights

Governance, Regional integration, Economics, Agriculture and Trade (GREAT) Insights is ECDPM’s monthly magazine covering a wide range of topics related to economic development in Africa and the developing world. GREAT Insights gathers expert analysis and commentary from a wide variety of stakeholders with different perspectives. As a follow-up to the widely successful Trade Negotiations Insights (TNI), GREAT Insights keeps you up-to-date on policy debates between the EU and the developing world in trade, agriculture, governance and economics more broadly. Regular sections include our very own EPA update, a monthly analytical overview of EPA negotiations, a summary of EU policy developments affecting the developing world, and a calendar of events in Brussels and beyond.