Over the last decade, monitoring and evaluation (M&E) processes have become an important source of knowledge management and organisational learning in the public sector.
Today, many organisations are realising the benefit of ‘knowing what they know’ and being able to extract that knowledge and improve their operations. Success and survival in today’s increasingly competitive environment critically depends on the quality of knowledge management and learning that public entities employ.
In the M&E domain, knowledge means the utilisation of information, combined with the potential of people’s skills, technical competencies, insights, thoughts, commitments and motivations. In public entities, knowledge is in different places distributed across the organisation such as knowledge hubs, databases, filing cabinets and human resources. Therefore, organisations need to know what their knowledge resources are and what M&E processes to employ to extract this knowledge.
Knowledge management, on the other hand, is the assembly of the processes that govern the creation, dissemination, and utilisation of data and information.
Knowledge management is about managing the processes of developing, preserving, using and sharing knowledge to add value to the organisation.
That’s why presently, many public entities are dedicating resources to knowledge management efforts. This helps them leverage data to advance their business strategies.
It is important to note that knowledge management efforts should normally focus on organisational objectives such as improving performance, creating a competitive advantage, innovations, sharing of lessons learned, integration and continuous improvement.
This makes knowledge management an enabler of organisational learning since it facilitates learning through the practical use of the information gained.
Organisational learning, on the other hand, takes place when a firm uses the knowledge generated to improve performance, create a competitive edge in the market, initiate innovations, share experiences with key stakeholders and undertake integration and continuous improvement efforts. In simple terms, learning is about the organisation making use of the knowledge generated to improve and perform better.
Information generated from M&E processes is instrumental in creating knowledge that enhances organisational learning. However, M&E can only play a significant role if firms put in place measures to enhance organisational learning. Organisational learning can only be enhanced when there is regular exchange of information, reporting, use of the knowledge generated, learning sessions are held and information from M&E processes is fed back into the learning process to foster improvement. So, companies need to learn from M&E processes to enhance their processes, accountability and innovation to ensure success.
The two most direct ways of using knowledge gained from M&E processes is to inform on-going and future planning and programmes development, and also scaling up or replication of programmes.
Lessons from M&E processes have to be availed to key stakeholders so that they incorporate or replicate those lessons in new programmes and projects when they are being developed. This is how organisational knowledge leads to learning, making it easy to incorporate it in the planning and development of new programmes and projects or other organisational development processes.
Finally, the use of knowledge (learning) is as important as the generation of knowledge.
A good M&E system ensures that information is generated and disseminated to the right audience.
Some of the commonly used knowledge dissemination mechanisms in M&E include the use of reports (printed and soft copies) shared on Internet and through e-mails, meetings, workshops and conferences.
The writer is a senior consultant for monitoring and evaluation, government and public services at PricewaterhouseCoopers Rwanda.