October 10, 2008
I start with the bad news: Those who were not there missed a great seminar, some excellent speakers and a really interesting debate. I would like to thank our moderator Richard Tuffs from Westmidlands in Europe (ERRIN ICT working group), who did an excellent job. Special thanks go to IBM Belgium (thanks Kjell!) for their kind support. I would, of course, also like to thank our speakers as well as the audience for their comments and questions, which got a lively discussion going.
Here is the good news: We videotaped our key-note speaker Christopher Perrien from IBM and are going to stream the first hour of our session online synchronized with his slides. This might take a week or two but it’ll be done and I will put a link in this blog once it is online. We will also make the slides of all the speakers available at the ERRIN website early next week.
So what did we learn, what did we take home? I will try to explain this in a nutshell but invite all speakers as well as our audience to participate and send me their comments through this blog so we can get to a shared view on the results of that meeting.
Read the event report …
Harnessing the potential of web 2.0. and knowledge management for improved regional cooperation
The event discussed promising new ways and key initiatives to stimulate knowledge learning and community building in European Territorial Cooperation.
Christopher Perrien (Internet strategist, IBM)
Christopher gave an inspiring presentation on Web 2.0. trends and tools pointing out the shift from storing to sharing and from publication and participation
Kincso IZSAK (European Commission, DG Ent)
Kincso presented DG Enterprise’s approach to promoting action-oriented partnerships rather than networking
Matt Nichols (Head of INTERACT Point Viborg)
Matt outlined the main challenges for knowledge management in ETC programmes and presented a new INTERACT initiative to build an interactive project platform cum database for all INTERRREG projects.
Elzbieta Ksiazek ( IRE Secretariat Manager)
Elzbieta shared her experiences and lessons learned from more than 10 years of innovation networking at the Innovation Regions Network.
Paul Soto (Thematic Pole Manager, URBACT)
Paul outlined the URBACT approach to knowledge management, in particular the thematic poles concept.
Michel Lamblin (Head of INTERREG IVC JTS)
Michel presented the results of the previous call of the IVC programme and highlighted opportunities with regard to funding ambitious new capitalization and regional initiative projects.
Main conclusions/points highlighted
There was a clear consensus among all participants that better knowledge management of European Territorial Cooperation, in particular better access to the knowledge produced, is absolutely necessary not only to prove the added value of existing programmes but also to allow true innovation. While there was no time to delve deeper into that particular debate about cohesion versus excellence, some important comments pointed to the relativity of innovation depending on a region’s starting point and needs (Michel), which is at the core of cohesion policy and on the need to work with and re-work the existing stock of knowledge, which is the dominant activity in innovation (Elzbieta), valorizing the achievements of previous networks, such as the Innovating Regions Network, versus the need for “new knowledge”, which is what DG Enterprise is currently emphasizing (Kincso). In any case everybody shared the concern for more effective communication on better web tools. It was agreed that more attention needed to be paid and best practice exchanged.
Web 2.0. and related community-building is definitely part of the solution but its not just a technology thing, a database. “Tools are not the house”, said Christopher, adding that it needs the two ships – scholarship and leadership. There is a whole range of tested technologies available to help us improve the knowledge management of our programmes and projects (one example was the IBM blue pages, which is a community building platform used by the company for their own staff, another their Innovation Jams, which are great for structuring large scale brainstorming sessions and could also be an interesting model for EU programmes to have a wide debate about project ideas and decide which projects are worth funding based on participants voting on the best ideas.
Another suggestion was to use experts in information management such as librarians or to look at how specific communities cope with structuring and making accessible different layers of information such as the medical community. Websites worth looking at for the way to manage projects and share lessons learned: BTpedia, Diplopedia. It is important to think about incentives to use any such community-building tools, which is something, which also has to be built into the programmes and their implementation rules. It also requires a cultural shift at programme and project level.
There are some encouraging first steps from INTERACT and URBACT, with INTERACT embarking on building a EU-wide database on project information to be complemented by interactive tools and URBACT asking projects to do baseline studies, identify knowledge gaps and create local action plans and creating communities of likeminded projects (thematic poles).
Individual regions have also started to create more interactive websites, moving from publication to participation (Zealand in Denmark was one example and Saxony in Germany another). Several comments from the audience suggested that there was clearly a nexus between our knowledge management discussion and the discussion on better communicating the EU. One idea floated was to use narrative techniques “telling the EU story”.
There is a whole set of initiatives by DG Enterprise going to be announced through a call this month to help regions move from conversation to transaction and help regions and innovation actors to create new knowledge together.
And there is finally INTERREG IVC with their capitalization actions that can help us co-finance some of the pilot actions necessary to kick-start a more conscious community-building and knowledge management effort. They are looking for good project proposals and ambitious partners to deliver such actions.
As to the approach, the way forward is knowledge learning instead of just sharing, it is a user-oriented approach, a pull-model rather than a push-model (i.e. looking at who needs the knowledge and what do they need it for, rather than just pushing it out and waiting for the uptake, which is the predominant mode). We need to move from publication to participation. We have to ask ourselves “how can people participate in and benefit from what I am learning”. This needs a cultural/attitudinal shift in our programmes and projects, which are mainly focusing on output and finances.
One of the major problems identified was information overload and complexity. However, “Complexity should not be used as an excuse” and “This is not magic – if you put your minds to it and create change in a small way” (Christopher). Some tools like tagging can be employed here to enable users to quickly shift through masses of information and decide what’s useful for them. A cool site for creating tags recommended by Christopher: www.wordle.net. By the way, it is kind of semantic art, try it out! (I did, see the image above). But also user ratings are necessary, think of Amazon!
Some (paraphrased) quotes from our speakers:
“’If Wikipedia gets it done with 8 full-time employees, why can’t the EU do better with a lot larger staff?!’”
“We have got data on 15000 projects but what’s missing is the bigger picture to prove the added value”
“Better knowledge management is not a luxury, it is a prerequisite for proving the added value of programmes and their survival”
“You need to know what’s been done if you want to do something new. Vice-versa and put ironically the easiest way to do something new is to ignore or forget what has been done”
“To note and discuss also project failures, instead of simply highlighting so-called good practice is not politically correct, but necessary for learning”
“The opportunity for leadership in the EU environment is huge – we should take a lead as community managers by using blogs and social network sites”
How can ERRIN help?
Bring concerned regional stakeholders to meet the key EU players in INTERREG, INTERACT, URBACT, etc. to discuss regional needs.
Encourage pilot projects, which concentrate on knowledge management.
The ERRIN website, if reconfigured, might contribute to and test participatory community building.
ERRIN can raise the awareness of the need to invest more in communication and knowledge learning rather than activities and audit.
We agreed, there should be a follow-up to this ERRIN debate, probably in the framework of the next Open Days in cooperation with interested stakeholders such as INTERACT, URBACT and INTERREG IVCI-Blogger