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SLIS News

Knowledge Management & George Washington University Unite for Education Forum

Posted Sep. 19, 2011

The spring launch of the Knowledge Management Education Forum (KMEF), co-sponsored by Kent State University’s School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) and George Washington University (GWU), brought together practitioners, administrators and students from different sectors of the economy to “identify and grow consensus on the knowledge management body of knowledge, competencies, roles and curriculum,” according to the KMEF on site event webpage.

The forum consists of three components: open weekly webinars, an in-person educational forum and an on-going online community of practice website.

Starting in March 2011, the series of 90-minute weekly webinars addressed four different key questions: 1) What strategic roles and responsibilities do knowledge professionals play in organizations today across all sectors of the economy? 2) What competencies do today’s knowledge professionals need to lead knowledge organizations in the 21st century? 3) What are the core and elective elements of a knowledge management curriculum for the 21st century? 4) How can we support these competencies in professional training, at the certificate level and at the master’s and Ph.D. levels?

“The webinars are a proven model for building a community of practice,” said Denise Bedford, Ph.D., Goodyear Professor of Knowledge Management in SLIS. Bedford coordinates the knowledge management concentration in the Information Architecture and Knowledge Management (IAKM) program of the school. “It set the stage and the tone for the discussion; each presenter addressed the four key questions.”

Annie Green, Ph.D., assistant professorial lecturer for George Washington University and adjunct faculty for Kent State University, teaches Intellectual Capital Management in the IAKM program and Knowledge Management I and II and Organizational Behavior for Engineers at GWU. Green stated that every team member involved in the planning executed each task well. The other key members of the team were Janna Korzenko, Drew Shipka, Flo Cunningham, Karen Gracy, Tom Burdick and North Lilly of Kent State, and Kshitij Grover, Alfredo Revilak, Tayde Revilak, Ebtehal Alomar, Syed W. Azeem, Peter Yim and Charlie Engle of George Washington University. The forum was also supported by funds contributed through the Goodyear Endowment for Knowledge Management at Kent State.

“We kicked off the webinars without any delays or obstacles, and the remaining six followed the same patterns,” she said. “There was significant attendance both online and via chat. Each week more than 50 professionals participated in the webinars, offering their input and expertise.”

The value of the wiki is that it allows for a living and timeless record of KMEF’s activities to be created. It allows the communities of practice to move forward while some are just discovering the webinars or watching the on-site presentations, Bedford stated.

“It is actually creating a record of the deliberations and dialog that is evolving on these issues,” she said. “One of the challenges we have in KM is that we tend to meet twice a year at major conferences, and there is little if any ongoing dialog in between. This often means we're starting conversations from scratch; that new people come in asking the same questions that we asked last year or 10 years ago. The wiki helps us to capture and transfer knowledge about knowledge management. In other words, it helps us to ‘eat our own dog food,’ as they say at Google.”

The face-to-face meeting took place May 5 and 6 at GWU in Washington, D.C., with 21 panelists, and conversations flowed from the beginning to the end. This event was planned and executed over a six-month period by a group of knowledge workers Bedford said. Charles Engel and Green leveraged their networks in knowledge management to pull in some very high profile panelists to make the onsite event a success. The dialog that began then is now carrying the agenda forward.

This first educational forum was designed to create an environment where it could bring together the current and past thought leaders in the field of knowledge management to discuss their work and hear others’ opinions on recent developments. Many key presenters in the knowledge management field made up the panel discussions.

“About 100 people attended each day,” Bedford said. “All panelists were thought leaders in the KM field. It would be hard to single out individuals because they were all so great. Our intent was to bring together the key people in the field to jump start the conversation on areas of consensus and to align the competencies with business needs.”

Bedford said she is very big on networking and that is how Kent State University was able to collaborate on the education forum with George Washington University.

“I am constantly reaching out to different universities, departments, schools and organizations to create collaboration opportunities and partnerships for Kent State’s Knowledge Management program,” she said. “I also live in the Washington, D.C., area and have many contacts in universities, the federal government and the international community here. The idea for the collaboration came about after I sent Dr. Michael Stankosky from GWU an e-mail and asked to meet to chat about curriculum in general. After a two-hour conversation, we decided to collaborate on this first venture. Now we have a recurring annual event, and we're hoping to bring other universities into sponsorship for the future.”

Green helped Bedford brainstorm how the two schools could partner in making this forum a reality.

“This was destiny, as Denise met with Michael to discuss the possibility of establishing KM as a discipline,” Green said. “Michael was very much interested in being part of the initiative that Denise was proposing. He in turn called me to ask that I get in touch with Denise and see how we could partner with her in making this happen. It was a pleasure to work with both teams and a true inspiration to be included in Denise’s vision. The KMEF Team was of high caliber.”

The expectation for the Knowledge Management Forum is that it will provide an environment for KM thought leaders, practitioners and students to come together each year and set the future course for the profession, Bedford said.

“As a vibrant professional community, KMEF will help to ensure that Kent State's Knowledge Management program and curricula are aligned with industry and professional expectations, and that our graduates and certificate holders have the education and skills that industry is looking for,” she said. “By participating in the on-going dialog at KMEF, our students and alumni can build their professional networks and keep their skills and knowledge up to date."

Materials from the onsite event are available online.