The value of learning: understanding and measuring the impact of KM in international development


  • Stacey Young USAID


impact, evidence, networks, knowledge sharing, lessons learned


We need a demonstrable evidentiary basis for understanding what works and what doesn’t in international development, and to use that to guide programming decisions; the challenge is that some things are easier to measure than others, and so we tend to focus on the results and impacts that are easy to measure. Neither ‘evidence’ nor ‘results’ are limited to phenomena that are easily measurable, but we tend to lose track of this fact. We let the proxy of our limited definition of evidence stand in for what it was originally supposed to suggest, which is to say results. There is a related error that we often make, which focusing on the proxy of a static plan in place of focusing on actual dynamic implementation contexts and processes. Static plans are easier to develop and implement than dynamic ones, but – just as easily measurable evidence isn’t necessarily the most important evidence – easily implemented static plans aren’t the most effective ones. We need to develop methods for capturing and assessing and understanding the value we create by investing in learning, and this is what the KM Impact Challenge attempted to do for the field of knowledge management and learning for international development. Relatedly, to be more effective, we need to be more dynamic and adaptable in our strategy, design and implementation – and that in turn requires that we place more emphasis on sharing knowledge and learning about new technical learning, tacit/experiential knowledge, and contextual knowledge – in order that we and our implementing partners learn and adapt for maximum aid effectiveness.


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