A knowledge portal for international development

USAID's family of Web sites designed to improve collaboration, info sharing among aid workers

The U.S. Agency for International Development is on the verge of launching a family of Web sites designed to improve collaboration and knowledge-sharing among workers providing development assistance.

The Knowledge-Driven International Development Portal (KDID) will house independent sites that support the work of the agency’s Knowledge-Driven Microenterprise Development (KDMD) project, said Stacey Young, senior knowledge management advisor for microenterprise development with USAID.

The sites include MicroLinks.org, which focuses on microenterprise development; eglearning.org, which supports economic growth training; diasporamarketplace.org, which connects African business owners through the African Diaspora Marketplace; and sites that will be developed for educational reform work being done in Jamaica, along with sites on agriculture and food security work.

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The portal will also include some smaller sites on poverty analysis, such as povertyfrontiers.org, and social transitions work in Europe and Eurasia, Young said. Additionally, the portal will support some closed communities of practice for KDMD’s learning networks on market development, poverty reduction efforts in conflict-affected areas, and risk management for microfinance institutions, Young said.

“USAID is dispersed across the globe. Knowledge-sharing is critical to ensuring that the work that we are doing is effective,” Young said.

“Since we do a lot of our work through implementing partners, there are new and important innovations being developed all the time outside of the agency,” she said. As a result, agency leadership and the funding apparatus need to tap into that innovation, Young stated.

The KDID portal is a way to do that. KDID is a knowledge and learning system and an online, professional-networking platform that uses social media tools. The portal is also a content management system that USAID is building on the Drupal platform, a free and open-source content management system. This makes KDID an extensible system for developing and managing existing and new Web sites, Web spaces and content.

“We also use a program called Articulate to create voice-over-PowerPoint captures of our seminars and GoToWebinar for making our seminars accessible remotely in real-time,” Young said.

“Ultimately what we are trying to do is multiply the impact of the work that we fund by sharing what we’ve learned as widely as possible so other people can replicate the things that we’ve learned,” Young said.

Social media is increasing the emphasis on interaction, she said.

“It is my hope that the emphasis on interaction will help bring us back to a point where we are focusing first and foremost on people and helping them to accomplish their goals,” Young said.

Capturing and sharing knowledge is crucial for USAID because the agency is hiring a lot of new people and facing the departure of many “seasoned” staff, Young noted. The agency is encountering a long-term staffing deficit because the organization has not maintained stable levels of staffing over the last 15 years and there has been a lot of attrition.

“But there is also a real opportunity here because a lot of the new people coming in have really come into their careers when interacting through technology is taken as a given,” she said.

Young and other USAID colleagues will discuss a range of techniques and tools the agency is using to capture and share knowledge within and outside USAID next week at the Knowledge Management Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference will be held by 1105 Government Information Group, parent company of Government Computer News, from May 3-5.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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