11.1.2 Why is knowledge management so important?
Efforts to provide universal WASH services can be undermined by poor knowledge management. For example, if WASH sector practitioners in a particular location or organisation have developed ways to solve a difficult problem, such as making safe drinking water accessible to people in informal urban settlements, their new knowledge cannot bring the same benefits to other communities if it is not shared so others can learn from it. Local solutions may not be publicised regionally and knowledge gained from national or international innovations may not trickle down to the local level.
A particular challenge for knowledge management in the WASH sector is that relevant information is often fragmented between different stakeholders, each holding part of the knowledge needed to solve problems. Combining diverse sources of information can lead to new ways to achieve more sustainable service delivery.
Shared learning and good knowledge management require a commitment by all participants to search for improvements in processes and policies. This can only be achieved if decisions and actions are well-documented, clearly communicated throughout all levels of the organisation and backed up by continuous monitoring of outcomes. We discuss documentation in Section 11.2.
Important opportunities for learning how to improve WASH services can be gained not only from sharing information on achievements, but also from reflecting on unsuccessful experiences. Regular reviews, two-way communication and joint learning are essential to ensure that more effective ways of working are extended to new locations and scaled up to benefit more people, as Section 11.4 describes.