Knowledge management in international development charities

Corfield, Alison (2011). Knowledge management in international development charities. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis investigates the effectiveness and potential longevity of Knowledge Management in three international development charities, in order to compare their experiences with the commercial context in which Knowledge Management originated. By this means, the research explores how well, or otherwise, Knowledge Management can be fitted into a different setting. It also throws significant light on the transfer of business practices more generally.

Chapter one assesses the evolution of the discipline Knowledge Management. It also provides key information about International Development Charities. Chapter two identifies the theoretical foundations of Knowledge Management as a prescription for organisational effectiveness, together with recommended best practices. Two environmental factors are emphasised: the role of information technology and, given the historic link to Japanese workstyles, ideas about organisational `culture'. In chapter three, the methodology for practical enquiry, derived from organisational system theory, is presented, and the problems in assessing effectiveness are discussed. Chapters four and five provide the substantive outcome of the fieldwork. Patterns that emerge from the data are drawn together in chapter six, highlighting the selective nature of Knowledge Management in application and demonstrating both similarities to and divergences from the original concept. In particular, there are specific challenges posed by the international reach of development charities.

The overall conclusions in chapter seven confirm that Knowledge Management undoubtedly chimes with the broad aims of international charities. At the same time, the transferability of Knowledge Management depends crucially upon its adaptability to the organisations' aims, resources, and `culture'. Where it is accepted that knowledge handling is needed to build organisational capacity, then Knowledge Management can provide a framework which, when combined with technological advances, is a tool, rather than the answer, for international charities engaged in the continuing struggle to abolish poverty.

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