During the management and transfer of knowledge between diverse groups, such as academics and practicitioners, the North and South, enterprises and investors, companies and clients, and even between diverse academic disciplines, one must find a means to understanding.
Multi-stakeholder interaction requires bridging communication borders with diverse methods and tools that either translate or determine common languages, and eventually turn theory into practice.
Like many other processes, knowledge management and transfer is plagued with a myriad of challenges including the lack of incentives, even knowledge and communication that are foundational to communication capacities. Other challenges ranges from competition for, and confidentiality of information shared. Lastly, there is always the challenge in discerning what information is most pertinent to whom.
In developing communication channels and tools, is the need for strategies. Understanding what and where the right forums are for knowledge management transfer can help agents differentiate between explicit and implicit knowledge. Strategies may also help motivate practitioners and academics to contribute to knowledge sharing.
Offgrid Access System in South Asia (OASYS)
► Debajit Palit, The Energy & Resources Institute, New Delhi, India
Two multi-stakeholder projects are most relevant as they demonstrate micro energy systems that are closer linked to communities at a local level.
OASYS introduced business models for decentralized off-grid electricity generation in developing countries. OASYS started in 2009, with the motivation of researching technical aspects and general cost-effectiveness.
The research firstly discovered two main knowledge gaps:
- Lack of knowledge regarding Business Models and institutional arrangements for delivery
- Limited or lack of experience in project scale-up and project sustainability
As a result, two questions arose to explore criteria relevant to the aforementioned knowledge gaps:
- Are there cost-effective and reliable off-grid electricity supply solutions that can meet the present & future needs, are socially acceptable, institutionally viable and environmentally desirable?’
- Do these local solutions have the scaling-up and replication potentials and can these solutions be brought to the mainstream for wider electricity access in the developing world?”
Geographical Scope & Analysis Dimensions
To help guide and direct the research, the geographical area of South Asia was decided as the region to apply a multi-dimensional analysis strategy. Since roughly half of all people without access to electricity are found in South Asia, in addition to the region housing some of the best examples of decentralized energy, it was determined as the most suitable geographical scope of the project. Elements in the multi-dimensional analysis include four angles of focus: techno-economic analysis, governance mechanisms, socio-political dimension, as well as environmental aspects. Also, four cross-cutting themes were defined through the research: capacity building, cross-referencing, cross-learning, dissemination for policy translation.
Research Team & Partners
The research team included partners from the United Kingdom as well as India:
- University of Dundee/De Montfort University
- School of Environment & Development, Manchester University
- Edinburgh Napier University
- The Energy and Resources Institute
- TERI University
- UK Research Council
The objective of the research and its activities was to transfer successful examples to new places. In addition to the comparative study of grid versus off-grid electrification processes as well as South Asian versus international regional, the research also tried to review existing projects and programs through literature reviews of roughly 100 research papers. The process was time consuming and difficult, but necessary to establish good base knowledge. A technologically independent framework was also developed as part of the research, as context resources determined the existence and feasibility to implement technology. Throughout the process, the cooperation between practitioners as well as academics was also emphasized.
The Solar Transitions Project
The project was led by the University of Oslo and funded by the Research Council of Norway, but included nine other global participants.
► Further Information
Human Diversity as a Success Factor
A successful aspect of this project was the “human diversity” as represented by the presence of researchers and practitioners, social scientists and technology implementers in a wide range of disciplines; from countries including India, Kenya, Austria, Norway and the USA.
Four sub-categorial factors investigated in this project included:
- practical details and social organization of village scale power supply
- socio-economic impacts and people’s interests and demands
- implementation and management strategies, and lastly
- relevant support mechanisms and barriers at state and national levels.
The last two preceding factors are most important in researching how mini grids actually work, and how to effectively transfer a the successful concept of the mini grid from India to Kenya. Mini grids were specifically chosen as capital investments for implementation have already been completed. Additional research objectives included contributions to the improvement of solar systems currently on market, and a socio-technical assessment to determine how to implement the most appropriate micro energy system in Kenyan markets. Knowledge management findings form the project were how to learn new systems, and then effectively adapt the system to new locations selected according to criterion that did not prioritize technology.
Challenges of Knowledge Management
► Energising Development (EnDev), Gunnar Wegner, GIZ
EnDev is an impact oriented initiative that includes partners from the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Australia, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. Since 2005, 18 beneficiary countries include 18 countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia have received funds in annual funding competitions. The project also includes a monitoring system to track the mid- to long-term success of implemented projects.
Successes and Barriers to Knowledge Management & Transfer
‘Wait, I have it somewhere in my mailbox’
Three important aspects constitute successful knowledge management and transfer within this initiative. The first of which focuses on connections and networks that have had previous successes. These connections and networks quite often lie close to home ‘somewhere in my mailbox’ and should be passed on or shared. The challenge specific to this aspect is the inbox pile-up that helps us to forget the connections as well as who and how we should share them.
‘The lightening-struck inverter’
The second aspect illustrates the value in communicating all information. A case example based on the decision of field technicians in Senegal who chose not to communicate how a mini grid inverter was struck by lightening and as a result was out of commission for two weeks. Since the technicians did not consider the information pertinent, and were also not excited to deliver the bad news, they decided it was better to delay transferring informationThe result was a directive and communication workshops that focused on discussing both good and bad information with the aim to increase efficiency and effectiveness in delivering results.
‘EnDev’s next super failure’
In this last example from Peru, the ineffective implementation of solar panels in overgrown fields served as the information that was not managed or transfer. Again, a refocusing on a positive setting to discuss all aspects of projects including worst mistakes was made to provide incentives for a team to talk through problems as oppose to punishment. There is also additional emphasis on the shared benefits gained by the entire organization in discussing and problem solving internal failures.
For the GIZ, knowledge is the product and service provided and not material object as with a manufacturing firm. This includes the management and transfer of knowledge regarding what is and is not successful in the field. Accompanying this is the storage and sharing of knowledge collected. Up until recently, this was a major challenge as the expertise would often be out in the field or occupied and unavailable. However, with a new information management system that uses a wiki, access to documenting knowledge, reviewing, editing, and sharing is now available to anyone. Not only is there an opportunity for comprehensive collection and storage of information, the collaborative process allows for planning, and also management of info through areas that are restricted or open to public access. The challenge is incorporating the information management system into daily routines, and also facilitating the use of the tool for users who are not adept with technology.
Connecting Knowldege for a Sustainable Future
► Benjamin Rebenich, energypedia UG (haftungsbeschränkt)
On energypedia.info everyone can create and revise articles on technologies, approaches and projects related to renewable energy and energy efficiency. Energypedia promotes knowledge and experience exchange to achieve universal access to sustainable energy for all people.As a wiki (stands for a website designed to enable anyone who accesses it to easily contribute or modify content), it is open and free for everyone in the internet, but does not require any computer language. As a project that grew out of EnDev in 2007, energypedia is accessed by users all over the world. Recently in 2012, the project ownership and management has transitioned to a new NGO. Energypedia is an interactive wiki that allows direct user interaction. While the tool cannot solve problems, it is useful as a knowledge sharing tool that may encourage the exchange for developing, improving or creating innovative solutions. The strengths of the tool go beyond collecting and storing information, and also dynamically link relevant people, discussions, and themes. Virtual knowledge communities are created as a result, and provide experts and audiences to relevant topics and challenges. Since the authors are also the audiences to the topics, feedback and quality monitoring is supposedly self-fulfilling in the long-term as participants will be motivated by the benefits of sharing and feedback to voluntarily continue contributions.
Visions & Missions
Energypedia envisions a world of free knowledge exchange and mutual learning on renewable energies in which everyone has access to sustainable energy sources. Accessible, cleaner and more efficient technologies will foster human development and environmental protection worldwide. In accordance with this vision and following the UN Sustainable Energy For All Initiative, energypedia pursues the goal of providing universal access to modern energy services by strengthening a borderless global knowledge exchange.Consequently, energypedia's mission is to become a living platform on renewable energies and energy efficiency in the development sector by offering relevant, high-quality information and user-friendly knowledge sharing tools to all people engaged in the provision of sustainable energy services.
Challenges & Opportunities
The project faces challenges in creating the right context and audience currently, which is key for a successful wiki. The success of the wiki highly depends on a strong audience with shared interests. Consequently, the organization is consistently working on measuring the success and impacts of its efforts by, for example, asking its users for feedback. In the current early stages of the project, the organizers are working hard on developing and ensuring standards, and are actively “wiki gardening.” On the side, the nonprofit organization is increasing its fundraising efforts in order to keep its independence. Additionally, energypedia is owner of a consultancy firm which will help to finance the free energypedia plattform in the future.The opportunities provided to this organization and project are many and varied at the moment. Accessibility is a key strength that allows for transparent, efficient, cross-border, and interdisciplinary information exchange. The ultimate success of the project will depend on the appropriate cultural, technological, and organizational conditions, in addition to attitudinal changes regarding information and technology. Currently, there are 12 to 15 other similar wikis worldwide, including an initiative at the University of Berkeley in California. What sets Energypedia apart from the others is that there are more social interactive features offered. In the long-term, managers of Energypedia foresee merging tendencies for the different wikis. There is, however, no foresight to linkages with other social media tools such Facebook.
Challenges of Knowledge Exchange
Tools such as energypedia.info will fill knowledge gaps. Even organizations such as TERI have similar sites that store information. Presenters predict future challenges in the merging of the different wikis, and the long-term maintenance of quality knowledge stored on the sites. Additionally, some current challenges may still resonate in the futures such as the attitude towards sharing knowledge. Particularly among private firms or project where there is a lot of investment into preparing and developing the knowledge and information, there is limited desire to make publicly what has been discovered. Some private companies may agree to sharing information with individual agreements as is already done so with GIZ. On the contrary, some private firms may share information, and also take advantage of the public site to advertise and promote.There are also pressures to publish in the academic community. Some presenters viewed this as an aspect requiring change. Other opinions shared illustrated the wiki as a new portal and publishing opportunity most attractive to students. In general, there was an agreement that wikis require more integration in not only the private sector but also the academic sector. Additionally, there is interest on making the wiki accessible in other languages than English, including French and Spanish.
- The article documents the proceedings of the session “Knowledge Management and Transfer for Microenergy Systems - Crossing Borders Worldwide" of the international conference “Micro Perspectives for Decentralized Energy Supply”, February 27 - March 1, 2013.
- In cooperation with energypedia
- Session facilitator: Jonas van der Straeten, Postgraduate Program Microenergy Systems, TU Berlin
- Documentation: Robin Chang, Joint International Master in Sustainable Development, Universität Leipzig
- Documentation: Felix Leyva