Learning from practice

This Key list highlights useful and practical resources about learning processes at organisational, project and individual levels. A range of learning experiences can take place internally within an organisation, between different sectors, or between NGOs in the North and South. The value of learning in a systematic and analytical way and the integration of learning in project processes are highlighted throughout. Topics include looking at different types of knowledge, learning practices and knowledge sharing techniques. Knowledge management and participatory monitoring and evaluation are key components of learning and are reflected in the list. Both theoretical aspects of organisational learning and a range of practical tools and methods are included. Email forums, journal articles, multimedia and websites relating to learning from practice are listed.

This list of key resources was developed for the Support to International Partnerships against AIDS in Africa (SIPAA) programme at ActionAid International. Please send suggestions or additions to the list to sourceassistant@hi-uk.org.

Selected resources

Books, reports, etc

Advancing health communication : the PCS experience in the field

PIOTROW, Phyllis Tilson
et al
March 2003

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"This guide for health communication programs is based on the worldwide experience of the Population Communication Services (PCS4) project from 1995-2002... "This report is designed to help organizations carry out effective communication programs by addressing step-by-step some of the major problems likely to arise and by focusing on problem-solving in the rapidly changing field of health communication"

How to investigate the use of medicines by consumers

HODGKIN, Catherine
FRESLE, Daphne

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This manual is a practical guide to the use of research methods for investigating medicines use by consumers, particularly those in developing countries, in order to identify problems, design interventions and measure changes. It will help health workers, policy-makers, administrators, researchers, educationalists, medical and pharmacy students, and many others to go beyond the individual and to the study the community as a focus. Topics covered include the reasons for studying medicine use by consumers, what influences consumer choice, and how to prioritise and analyse community medicines use problems. There are chapters on sampling and data analysis, and the manual concludes by looking at the important issue of monitoring and evaluating interventions

Implementing knowledge strategies : lessons from international development agencies

April 2005

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This study synthesises existing research on knowledge and learning in the development sector, and draws out eight key questions for examining related strategies and systems in development agencies. Together, these questions make up a comprehensive Knowledge Strategies Framework, which brings together four 'dimensions': organisational knowledge, organisational links, organisational contexts, and external factors. The study then presents the analysis of data collected on current knowledge and learning practices in 13 selected case study organisations. It finds that organisational learning is most effective where it is defined and understood, and where it is linked to ongoing processes. It sets out questions and considerations for further investigation

Knowledge management


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This useful brief sets out the basics of knowledge management clearly and concisely. It describes the benefits of managing knowledge in an organisation, and presents two approaches: connecting people and organisations (networking) and collecting (capturing and documenting experiences using methods such as after action reviews). The issue of organisational culture is touched on, and ways that 'traditional' and electronic information technology might help knowledge management are proposed. The last page lists 'top tips' and some ideas for getting started on knowledge management

Knowledge sharing toolkit : an evolving collection of practical knowledge sharing techniques

FAUL, Mark
December 2004

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This draft toolkit includes descriptions of four knowledge sharing techniques, and may soon expand to include more. The techniques described are after action reviews, retrospects, peer assists, and online communities. A brief section is devoted to each, including a short description of the technique, the benefits, a step-by-step guide to applying it, tips and cautions, a brief example, and some further resources

Learning for change : principles and practices of learning organisations


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This paper describes both the theoretical side of organisational learning, and a range of practical tools and methods. The theory is based on an 'eight function model' which is integrated in the project cycle: creating a learning culture, gathering experience, accessing external learning, communication systems, mechanisms for drawing conclusions, developing an organisational memory, integrating learning into strategy and policy, and applying the learning. The tools include action learning sets, advice network mapping, case study development, exchange programmes, exit interviews, and others. The paper includes a list of further reading resources

Learning from work : an opportunity missed or taken?

LUDIN, Jawed
March 2003

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This paper focuses on learning at the project level. It is based on findings from two small surveys carried out by BOND involving NGOs and donor organisations respectively. The first section, Learning Through a Project Cycle, mainly covers the views of BOND member NGOs about the concept of learning as well as whether and how it happens in the context of their day-to-day work. The second section, Learning and Donors, is based largely on the responses of four main donor organisations that took part in the relevant survey. Views of NGOs on the attitude and policies of donors towards learning from project work are also included

Learning in partnerships

BYRNE, Ailish
May 2004

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Outlines a range of practical steps to strengthen learning between NGOs in the North and South for anyone working in development. Reviews the wider context and influences on trends towards taking learning more seriously in the development sector. Also looks at factors affecting NGO partnerships. Reviews published literature in these areas and links it to issues raised at a workshop of practitioners in 2003

Learning to share learning : an exploration of methods to improve and share learning

March 2003

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This is a report, commissioned by the UK Commission for Health Improvement (CHI) in March 2003, which provides a literature review looking at the sharing of learning in different sectors. A key aim of CHI’s approach is to encourage NHS organisations to embed learning in their work to help them improve their practice. The report draws on studies in the fields of education, psychology, organisational learning, personal learning, and participatory approaches to explore understanding of good learning practice. It includes more than 15 case studies that illustrate methodologies and approaches used to share learning in the business, public, and voluntary sectors, paying particular attention to the types of processes that encourage engagement with diverse communities of interest or multiple stakeholders

Lessons learned from the nine communities funded through the Connecting Communities for Better Health program


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This document brings together the experiences and lessons learned in the implementation of health information exchange (HIE) initiatives as part of Connecting Communities for Better Health programme. The programme provides support to health information organisations and initiatives across the United States, but lessons can be applied to other contexts and settings. Covers all main components of programme planning and implementation, including: creating business models; planning and building IT infrastructure; getting started; assessing the environment; developing a shared vision; marketing; resource allocation and budget; data collection and evaluation; replication of prior success as a project strategy

Making a difference : M&E of policy research

July 2007

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"This paper aims to advance understanding on how to monitor and evaluate policy research, i.e. research that is undertaken in order to inform and influence public policy. Policy is defined very broadly to encompass both policy decisions and processes, including implementation..."

Perceptions and practice : an anthology of impact assessment experiences

NORRISH, Patricia

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This book presents eleven case studies of impact assessment in information and communication projects such as CATIA, Reflect's ICT projects in India, Tearfund's Footsteps project, Bernard van Leer Foundation's Effectiveness Initiative and others. Each case study begins with a summary of the study, followed by first-hand accounts of the key people involved in each assessment. The central issues raised by the studies include learning and accountability, attribution, context, communication, donor issues, resources, and planning. The case studies are bracketted by sensitive and analytical introductory and concluding chapters, which synthesize the practitioners' voices from the case studies, contextualise them in wider debates in development impact assessment, evaluation and learning

Tools for knowledge and learning : a guide for development and humanitarian organisations

July 2006

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This toolkit brings together approaches and techniques aimed at supporting the learning and knowledge management of humanitarian organisations, to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of their work. It provides a comprehensive overview of 30 tools and techniques, divided into five categories: i) strategy development; ii) management techniques; iii) collaboration mechanisms; iv) knowledge sharing and learning processes; and v) knowledge capture and storage. This guide is primarily aimed at staff working in development organisations

Email forums

LEAP : the learning and evaluation action program

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The Learning and Evaluation Action Program (LEAP) is an initiative to promote a coordinated and comprehensive approach to learning about the use of knowledge and ICTs in international development. It hosts an e-mail discussion list called LEAP-Impact, a community of practice open to all individuals and organisations interested in the evaluation of information services, projects and products. The website includes posted messages, documents and links to further resources on knowledge management, learning and evaluation for development

Journal articles