6509s. A work in progress (Bob Mical/flickr.com)

What is a connector?

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

Where some believe that the value of their network is based on its exclusivity, connectors are people in the organization who have developed large networks of people and who see their role in introducing people in their network to each other. This connector role is closely related to the knowledge brokering process that recombines existing knowledge and facilitates knowledge transfer. The relationships leveraged by connectors may be personal or based on prior experience rather than ascribed to the current role, especially in the context of decentralization. Building a dense network of relationships is a prerequisite for the connector function. As connectors, we are empowered toward the collection vision in which can act as knowledge brokers to foster, replicate, scale, and harmonize innovation by National Societies. Photo: 6509s. A work in progress (Bob Mical/flickr.com)

Wire (Kendra/flickr.com)

What does it mean to broker knowledge in a network?

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

Our network function requires that we interact with the network. We observe profound changes in the nature of knowledge, how it circulates, and this affects how we work (learn). Members in the network, too, have changed. We struggle to keep up with and adapt to these changes. In working with them, we prioritize results against their own expectations as well as those of donors and governments. Hence, it is difficult to justify learning approaches that take us away from such priorities. We wish for time after delivery to reflect on lessons learned, but such wishes may be swept away by the next urgent task. The alternative to this frustrating cycle of task delivery at the expense of reflection is to adopt a knowledge brokering approach. We broker knowledge when we link learning with innovation in the context of the long history of work done by the network. When trying to …

Danger of death (Lars Plougmann/flickr.com)

How do we learn from the network?

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

When our organization’s hierarchy prohibits direct contact with the field, indirect and informal contact becomes more important than ever. Global and regional meetings, bilateral programmes, and various kinds of informal events provide opportunities for staying in touch. In fact, decentralization raises the stakes of informal and incidental learning – activities “flying under the radar” of decentralization’s hierarchical relationships may become the primary mode for learning about, with and for the field. How do we overcome barriers to learning from the network? First, when we reframe new ideas and possibilities, we ask how this aligns with the current characteristics of the nodes in the network (“the membership”). Second, we need to leverage continual learning to innovate, recombining and inventing new solutions (knowledge brokering). Third, we need to consider indicators other than the volume of programming, and consider how we can scale up quality. Photo: Danger of death (Lars Plougmann/flickr.com)

Vintage Bank Vault (Brook Ward/flickr.com)

Death of the knowledge bank

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

The complexity of the networks in which our organization operates is scaffolded by a corpus of mostly-unwritten, tacit knowledge and ‘ways of working’ that we learn mostly from our peers. It would be impossible to justify time to study even a fraction of the written corpus of policies, procedures, regulations and other instruments of bureaucracy that provides the legal and operational framework – and even that would not provide access to the tacit knowledge that we need. So we learn as we go from our colleagues. In some contexts, we may proceed by trial and error, making adjustments when we receive negative feedback. When asked where we learn such knowledge, sources may remain apocryphal. We seldom reflect on where, when, how, and from whom we learn. Relegating learning about operational complexity to the informal domain may seem to present a risk for the organization. In practice, we find that we do tend to …

The hub upon which all things turn (Nic McPhee/flickr.com)

The hub in a network

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

We sit at the hub of a distributed network. In the past, only some organizations sought to organize as networks – those that had to bring together, federate or otherwise affiliate disparate groups characterized by diversity. Today, an organization that does not distribute its functions is unlikely to leverage its network. Learning strategy therefore carefully considers how to decentralize the means while sharpening the aim. We explore the tension between the consequences and risks of decentralization and the benefits of learning in the network. We share a collective vision and commitment to building the capacity of our network and leveraging our organization’s connectedness to improve. How well we execute on that commitment is measured by mission performance. We are empowered as connectors in the network: from members to the hub, from the hub to the members, and members to each other. What is changing about the collective vision we share? What needs to change? How …