THE CASE FOR (BETTER) KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT IN TERRITORIAL COOPERATION

What makes a good project and how can other projects learn from it?
What knowledge is transferable from programme to programme?
How can the results of the projects be better exploited and presented?
How can the interested public have access to the knowledge (e.g. studies, analysis, statistics) developed by the projects?

If you have ever asked yourself only one of these questions, then you are in the right place. This article will not provide any answers to the above questions, but it will try to make the case for knowledge management in  territorial cooperation programmes. It does not imply that at present there is no such thing as knowledge management in the way that territorial cooperation programmes are organised, but it argues that it is high time that we increase our efforts and we start working towards systematically using knowledge management in our operations.

 KM  

In today's knowledge-based economy, what you earn depends on what you learn.

(Bill Clinton)

Why knowledge management in territorial cooperation?

Wealth, in general terms, nowadays comes mostly from managing and leveraging experience, know-how and knowledge. This is why, in order to make territorial cooperation more valuable, it is essential that we put in place effective networks of communication, and develop systems and processes to acquire and share the knowledge that lies within. Good flows of knowledge on methods, content and outputs of territorial cooperation programmes will promote high standards, prevent problems and increase overall efficiency.

What exactly is knowledge management and what does it have to do with territorial cooperation?

There are many ways in which knowledge management can be defined, but they all come down to the same basic idea: Knowledge Management (KM) is the process through which organizations create value from their intellectual and knowledge-based resources. Most often, generating value from such resources involves sharing them among employees, departments and even with other organisations in an effort to devise best practices and enhance quality and competitiveness. It's important to note that KM is often facilitated by IT, which provides the tools and technologies which are help to organise, store and work with various data and information. Nevertheless, technology alone is not KM, but most often is a part of it.

In addition to the above, I would add that knowledge management is about connecting people to people (e.g. developing communities of practice), people to tools (e.g. users of a database) and people to technologies (e.g. users of a web portal). In the particular case of territorial cooperation, knowledge management is about effectively connecting the various actors involved (projects, programmes, decision makers), by using various tools and technologies, with the purpose of creating synergies, improving efficiency, and obtaining better results. All these should ultimately lead to better results, improved visibility and enhanced support for territorial cooperation.

The challenge here lies in the complexity of territorial cooperation- different levels of cooperation, several management bodies, various fields of activity (programme priorities), different cultures and the multitude of countries that are involved. All of these variables make it difficult to effectively collect, organize and transmit knowledge in a way which brings benefits to everybody. We need to make sure that all those engaged in programme execution, from beneficiaries up to staff working in the managing authorities are contributing in the knowledge management process.

Where is the knowledge?

  • Knowledge lies in the project outputs
  • Knowledge lies in the people
  • Knowledge lies in the processes - the proprietary know-how of territorial cooperation (e.g. Programme and project management processes)
  • Knowledge lies in the organisational memory (accrued knowledge , such as the knowledge from the Interreg programes transferred to the new territorial cooperation objective)
  • Knowledge lies in the connections or the relationships between the actors (programme to programme, partner to partner, project to project etc.)
  • Knowledge lies in the intellectual assets and tools developed (such as models, systems, documents, tools developed within programmes or projects)

How can knowledge management help the projects and the programmes within the territorial cooperation objective?

There is an important amount of "informal" and "tacit" knowledge existing at programme and project level. By transferring this knowledge from an informal to a formal level, a wider audience can benefit from it.

Effective knowledge management at the project level can facilitate the sharing of already tested solutions among project partners, distribute tasks and resources more efficiently, eliminate parallel activities, and improve the focus on specific parts or certain aspects of projects.

They say: "Know thy neighbour! We say: know your environment, your field of activity, your partners! This will help to avoid repeating ideas of previous projects, whilst learning from their experience and consolidating their results! It will also facilitate the "cross-fertilisation" between projects that address similar issues and / or complement each other. A further benefit is also the coordination and effective orientatation of potential beneficiaries in order to apply to programmes which are the most suitable for their needs.

Sharing knowledge and best practice increases the competitiveness of programmes and provides the basis for better management (improves quality and know-how). Last, but not least, it helps to collect, distribute and promote the results and achievements of INTERREG and Territorial Cooperation programmes and projects.

To conclude, I have chosen another quote, this time from the poet and philosopher Kahlil Gibran, who wisely said that "A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle."

There is plenty of "idle" knowledge in territorial cooperation. Let's activate it, let's use it, let's earn from it!