Category Archives: Knowledge and learning

Help me save the Knowledge Hub (in some form)

An email from the Knowledge Hub team at the LGA:

As Knowledge Hub user I felt it necessary to contact you with this news. You may have read in today’s press due to cost the LGA are proposing to close the Knowledge Hub facility. There is statutory 30 day consultation period (consultation closes on 23 June) on these proposals. As project lead I am very sorry to have to bring you this news. Many of you have invested time and effort in the platform and we as a team have worked extremely hard to deliver what we feel is a valuable and vital service for local government at this difficult time.

The organisation has decided that in the face of further cuts funding is unsustainable.

This is a terrible shame for local government. Cross sector sharing of knowledge and learning is vital if councils are to meet the challenges they face.

I know I could make the Knowledge Hub work: with a change of technology, a new business model, and some great community management.

I think we can make the Knowledge Hub – or whatever it might be called – like LocalGovCamp – only all the time and everywhere.

I suspect I need to convince the LGA to let me do this. After all, I want the existing content on the Knowledge Hub to import into the new system, and the user data too. Otherwise, starting from scratch will most likely make life extremely difficult.

So, I’d like some help. The best form is probably in expressions of support, perhaps publicly on the comments of this post. If you think local government needs a knowledge sharing platform, and you think I might be the person to make a decent fist of it, then do please let me, and the LGA, know.

Thanks!

We need to talk about the Knowledge Hub

Or at least, about where people in public service can go to share ideas, ask questions and promote good practice.

Back in the summer of 2006, when I was working as a lowly Risk Management Officer (yes, you read that right) at a county council, I joined the nascent Communities of Practice platform, which was being developed by Steve Dale at the then Improvement and Development Agency.

I thought it was fantastic, and joined in with some gusto – so much so in fact that I did attract a little criticism from colleagues who thought – probably quite rightly – that I ought to have been concentrating on the day job.

One of the first things I did was to launch the Social Media and Online Collaboration community, which I ran until my circumstances changed and Ingrid took over. Under Ingrid’s watchful eye, the community grew into one of the biggest and most popular on the platform.

Over time though it became clear that the CoP platform wasn’t keeping up with the technological times: the interface was a little clunky and a few things didn’t really make sense in an age of hyper-sharing on Facebook and Twitter.

So the Knowledge Hub was born, to take things forward. Only, I’m not sure it has.

I’m not wanting to bash the hard work that people have put in. All I will do is describe my experience – that people aren’t using the Knowledge Hub, and activity appears to be way down compared to the CoPs.

On the rare occasions I log in, I find the site incredibly, almost unusably, slow – and the interface hard to find my way around. I mean, I spend my life on the internet, and I just don’t really know what I am meant to do on the Knowledge Hub.

I’ve been wanting to raise this topic for a while, but what made me do it was receiving a request for information on Twitter by a local government person.

I don’t mind it when this happens. In fact it’s rather nice, as it means people remember who I am, and I get a chance to be helpful. As the owner of a small business, I get that this sort of thing can be a useful marketing tool.

But I do think to myself that there really ought to be a place where good practice, case studies, stories, examples, discussions and helpful chat can take place.

Surely that should be the Knowledge Hub? But as I mention, it isn’t: hardly anyone is on there and people are using tools like Twitter to try and track down the information they need.

So what’s the answer? Given the investment so far, and the organisational backing of the Knowledge Hub, that platform ought to be the future of knowledge sharing and collaboration in the sector.

I’m sure there are a few tweaks on the technology, user interface and community engagement side that could push things forward massively on there, before the goodwill earned by the previous system is used up.

The other option is for something else to emerge to take its place. With a little time and energy, I’ve no doubt someone – maybe even me – could put the tech in place to make it happen. But the time and resources needed to engage an entire sector are huge – and if the LGA are struggling I dread to think what sort of a hash someone like me would make of it.

What are your views? Do you use the Knowledge Hub? How does it compare to the CoPs? Where do you go for your innovation knowledge, stories and chat?

Where do we go next?

Two cool tools for knowledge and learning

Neat applications for sharing knowledge and learning are like buses, it turns out.

Icon

Icon is a new app from Spigit, who are the leaders in innovation management software. It’s a really simple concept (which is good) – the online question and answer format, but for an internal audience.

So, what Yammer is to Twitter, Icon is to Quora.

It’s a fab idea and to be quite honest I have no idea why nobody has done it before.

Icon is free to get going with, and could be an incredibly easy way to build up a useful internal knowledge base. For those using Yammer already, there seems to be a way to integrate them, which is a good idea.

Lore

Lore is an online course platform. Unlike than big systems like Moodle, it focuses on making it really easy to make single courses, and to just get them out there.

It provides a place for discussions to take place between learners and teachers, accept and grade assignments, share resources, and to have a calendar for real life get togethers and webinars.

What’s remarkable is that it is free!

I’m going to be having a play with Lore to see how well it works, and perhaps put together a test online course about digital engagement, if folk would be up for it.

Thanks to Rich Millington for bringing Lore to my attention. Rich and his colleagues are running a free course about online community management using the Lore platform, which will be well worth signing up for!

Social knowledge and learning at BT

I spoke at an Open University event last week on behalf on Learning Pool, discussing the role on communities in social learning and how they can help improve engagement. More on the specifics of my talk on the LP blog in due course.

One of the other presentations, which I found really interesting, was from BT’s Iain Napier on their approach to social learning. This focused on two main initiatives, it seemed to me:

  1. The use of social networking to build communities of practice and interesting within the organisation, and to make the identification of talent and skills easier
  2. Encouraging staff to develop content to share their knowledge with colleagues, creating what are effectively short pieces of informal e-learning

BT use Sharepoint to enable rich staff user profiles listing interests and experience, and encourage blogging, status updates and document sharing to help inform others as to everyone’s expertise and skills.

From what I saw at the session, it looks like one of the most well-used SharePoint instances I’ve ever seen.

The staff generated learning content is published using a tool BT call ‘Dare2Share’ and is mostly video content, recorded cheaply and quickly using Flip cameras and the like.

Towards Maturity have written up Dare2Share and reveal the really interesting statistic that 78% of BT staff prefer to learn from their peers, but that very little attention or resource was put into making this happen.

Here’s a quick video about Dare2Share:

I wonder if it is just as true in public services that staff would rather learn from each other rather than from external trainers and experts? I’d imagine it probably is and the success of networks such as the Communities of Practice seem to confirm it.

It seems key to me that government organisations do more to maximise the skills and knowledge already present in the organisation, especially at a time when recruitment of new skills is tricky and L&D budgets are squeezed.

While technology isn’t of course the whole answer (see electric woks) nonetheless it must form part of the answer. How many public service organisations make the tools available to staff to do this stuff without a fight?

Telling tales

One of my favourite sessions at LocalGovCamp was Lloyd Davis talking about his trip across the States and his upcoming project to go where the work is in the UK.

Here’s a video (if you can see it):

I speak up with a few minutes to go at the end, making the point that I am going to write about here, that the best bit about lloyd’s adventures are the stories he tells about them, whether at events like LocalGovCamp, his live shows or the blogs and videos he publishes.

Indeed, this is the lesson that public services can learn from folk like Lloyd – that having the ability to tell stories, the platforms on which to do so and the culture where stories are listened to, is really vital for an organisation to be considered healthy.

Consider feedback platforms like Patient Opinion, mentioned in the video above. It’s really a platform for service users to tell their stories and the key is that health service providers listen and act upon those stories.

Just as important though is for people working with public services to tell their stories. There are benefits internally – keeping colleagues up to date and informed; and externally – providing a human face to the world.

Telling stories shouldn’t just be something that we do with our children. Think of the best talks you have heard at conferences and other events – no doubt they will be packed with stories that contain some personal detail or humorous remark that helps you remember them.

In many ways that’s what LocalGovCamp itself should be all about. People getting together and telling stories, leaving those that hear them to take from them what they will.

Do follow Lloyd on Twitter – he is consistently entertaining and occasionally useful – and if you get the chance to offer him some work as he travels around the country, do so. You can find out what he does best here.