Findings from study on WaterWiki by Anna


Jump to: navigation, search
edit  ·  Toolkit WaterWiki 2.0 - The project
WaterWiki in UN-Water Context | Technical development issues | Managing WaterWiki 2.0 | WaterWiki - Wanted Content
WaterWiki-presentation Nairobi web4dev-conf Nov07 (Web4Dev Nairobi 2007 | Web2forDevConference findings) | The Contribution of a Wiki to the Development of a Community of Practice: A Case Study - Anna Maron Aug07 (Findings from study on WaterWiki by Anna)
Further resources: Knowledge Management Toolkit
WaterWiki 1.0 (Careful: Archived, non-updated version)
WaterWiki 1.0 Toolkit (FAQ | KM | Substantive | Technical | Process Step-by-Step) | "Outstanding Dev Issues" on WaterWiki 1.0 | Draft concept for the way ahead | New architecture (draft) for WaterWiki


Background to the Dissertation

Internship 2005

Good opportunity for a study

Literature in the academic on CoPs, Technology and wikis in the academic world still in their infancy. (Struggling to incorporate technology into social theories)

Based on survey and interviews

Study aimed to find out if the WaterWiki contributed to the development of the CoP

Key Findings

Knowledge Sharing in the CoP

1) Most important reason for sharing in the CoP and the wiki
  • To stay connected to other practitioners and the rest of the community
  • To share knowledge and experience. The WaterWiki is more used for sharing experiences than it is for storing information (documents, reports etc)

2) Reasons for not sharing
  • Time
  • Lack of water related projects
  • Membership in too many CoPs

The wiki contributed to CoP development in the sense that

  • It created a sense of 'togetherness' for the community: The WaterWiki brought the community closer together ('unitedness'), it overcomes time and space separation

  • Acted as an important knowledge and information tool for the CoP: Greatly improved access to information and knowledge on water and in the region ("Our own little Britannica").

  • The wiki has increased the salience of water governance issues: importance of these initiatives for the future... Anything that this type of exercise on water governance can produce at the beginning of the century may help to dampen the rhetoric and the political sword waving that will come later when fresh water access becomes more critical than energy.

  • The wiki technology can be seen as contributing to the CoP: 1) High usage 2) The technology is not difficult to use 3) CoP members like the look and feel of the WaterWiki 4) WaterWiki has acted as a vetted resource for the CoP through its constant peer review process

WaterWiki did not contribute to CoP development because...

Despite these benefits of the WaterWiki, it can not be said to have fulfilled its potential as a knowledge sharing tool for the CoP:

  • No spontaneous sharing, mostly based on requests to post information
  • Greater benefit to the work of the facilitator (Juerg) than to the practitioners
  • No CoP member thinks the WaterWiki has made a noticeable contribution to their work

Reflections on key findings

Why has the WaterWiki not spurred spontaneous knowledge sharing in the CoP??

1) Focus on codification and information storage rather than collaboration, interaction, and communication. The prevailing KM view of what knowledge is is static, individual, and objectified. That knowledge is something to be captured and codified from the heads of practitioners. It is more and more accepted in the academic work that knowledge is something that is created socially, through practice with other people (this is where the idea of CoPs come from!). This is also the potential of web2.0 technologies -knowledge sharing through communication and collaboration

Quote on knowledge sharing as a chore:

[There is] no extra time to contribute to the network. Although the issues are interesting and challenging, there is mostly no time to write, summarise and post. Although there is a requirement now that we should contribute at least two times to the network, that's the mechanism the management uses to incentivise us.

I don't upload enough information. I put it on my to-do list but it is always somewhere at the end. It's unfortunate because we have a lot to share. But what helps is that when people approach me, I send them the documents by e-mail. It's a matter of being committed, I have to have a personal commitment, put it in the calendar and update my WaterWiki page on a regular basis. It's a matter of personality, some people enjoy it a lot, it depends on the person.

But, the CoP showed a desire for knowledge sharing that is interactive and collaborative rather than knowledge sharing that focuses on extraction knowledge objects from their heads:

1) The survey and the interviews showed that the wiki to is too static, not dynamic or ‘alive’. The survey data showed that the CoP members would like to see more regular updates in the wiki, receive information that colleagues are using the material and knowledge that is shared, receive information on upcoming events, and for there to be an 'alerts' or notification system to inform members when new pages are added that are of interest. And the interviews showed that most of the respondents value interaction and communication rather than a static information repository.

If the wiki was more active, rather than being just a stationary, voluntary platform that would compel me to participate

When people are interacting virtually there is no direct feedback at every single moment, you might feel that there is probably no one using the information you have uploaded. You feel isolated, you are adding information but [there is] no visual way to see if anyone is using what you have uploaded

2) Knowledge should be seen as a public good. A public good has two critical properties. It is non-rivalrous consumption, meaning the consumption of one individual does not detract from that of another. And, second, it has non-excludability, that is, it is difficult if not impossible to exclude an individual from enjoying the good. If knowledge is seen as a public good within an organisation, people feel compelled to share out of a moral obligation. Introducing rewards and incentives for sharing wont help as this only encourages self-interested behaviour (The survey showed that if knowledge sharing was part of the practitioners job description, this would not make them share more).

 Anna Maron Thesis final Aug07.doc

Summary of interview data with complementary survey data

A total of 10 Water Governance Community of Practice Members were interviewed during March 2007, both UNDP staff members and non-UNDP staff. The summary is complemented with data from the WaterWiki survey where appropriate. Names are excluded, only ‘UNDP’ and ‘non-UNDP’ labels are used to distinguish the respondents.

The Community of Practice

Members contribution to the CoP

The interviews indicated a wide range of reasons for why the practitioners engage in the CoP as well as different preferable ways of contributing. One UNDP staff member noted the importance of keeping track of what's going on in the community, while a non-UNDP respondent recognised that "having a group of people who to bounce ideas off of and talk to people who work in similar areas is very very helpful". Being connected to a community of practitioners working in the same field as oneself must therefore be seen as a reason in its own right for why the practitioners engage in the CoP.

Another very important reason for contributing appears to be to share experiences and knowledge with other community members, either face-to-face at conferences and meetings or by posting experiences in the wiki (3 respondents). This was also a finding from the survey which showed that close to a half of the respondents used the WaterWiki for collaboration and knowledge sharing (Survey). One UNDP member in Central Asia noted "I think it’s useful in terms of hearing from other countries and getting views on other projects, especially in Central Asia". Another UNDP member shared that view, "it is very important to be involved in the cop, to learn more on water issues and share our experiences". He continues "once it comes to the experience of the region it is important to have the lessons learned and the management modalities for water basin management. This is something we are trying to learn from the CoP. Whenever we need a water expert, we try to organise our search through the CoP members". Finding experts on water-related issues appeared to be an important reason for the interviewees' involvement in the CoP (3 respondents), but this finding was not supported by the survey which put information on experts low on the list of types of information most important to the work of the practitioners (Survey).

One UNDP staff member acknowledged two distinct ways of understanding member's contributions to the CoP. One would be to look at contribution in terms of ongoing and current activities and a second could be to understand involvement in the CoP as framing future activities and processes. He remarks, "the community of practice itself is both the existing framework and the expected one, so there is a tendency that we are shaping our future water related activities at the moment". This indicates that to some members the CoP has purpose greater than the immediate one of knowledge sharing. Another UNDP staff member made a different but similarly insightful comment on why he values the membership of the CoP: "Its very important because it helps give a regional, and even global, impact to projects that would otherwise be limited to Cyprus. So it's a way out for us on a small island like Cyprus to show the world, to showcase what we're doing and also obviously to learn from other people's examples. So its very important for us to be linked in". One non-UNDP CoP member was less positive and noted his engagement is limited at the moment. He keeps in contact with a couple of colleagues working on water governance issues in the region but that "those are the ones who i would share ... information with ... irrespective of whether this particular service existed or not"

Knowledge-sharing in the community

Most of the interview respondents (7 respondents) agree that face-to-face communication is the best way to share knowledge in the community but many of them note the constraints to this form of sharing. One UNDP member states "obviously face-to-face meetings are important, cop meetings are important, but again it's a question of resources, here in the office we are only authorised to do one trip per year so we have to select carefully". Another also mentions the limited resources, "meeting face to face regionally [is the best way to share], but this is quite costly. It is the best way though, particularly for newcomers, you get to know people and can ask them questions and things like that". A non-UNDP consultant remarks "useful would be to have meeting where everyone is brought together but this is probably very expensive". In non-profit related work bringing a community of practitioners from such a vast region together is obviously very costly. Only one of the respondents mentioned telephone as a good way of sharing knowledge, and one mentioned direct contact with a colleague via e-mail as suitable for sharing knowledge.

Many of the interview respondents mentioned an online platform of some kind as good way to share knowledge between practitioners. One non-UNDP practitioner noted, "an electronic platform that is now established with the WaterWiki ... is really good because it helps for posting important messages, for example if you find a nice article you may think of 5 or 10 people [that would be] very interested in it, but if you have a platform to share the information with all the others then of course reach much more people than directly forwarding information". A UNDP member agrees, "the online activities, online forums, the WaterWiki that's an important way to [share] I think, because then you can just consult that when you feel the need to, so i think that's a very important aspect". Another UNDP member contrasts online knowledge sharing via a platform to e-mail lists: "WaterWiki or any other internet based tool is good because you can put all relevant materials and the people who are interested they get in touch with you. I actually don't like this exchange of global e-mails in the e-mail list. I don't think that is useful (only in the sense that you get summaries and comments), I would prefer to go to the WaterWiki or the workspace [UNDP KM Workpace] to see what the questions and comments were over the last months". A couple of interviewees mentioned the importance of face-to-face meetings in addition to knowledge sharing online, as these help to put a face to the anonymous name in electronic communication.

Constraints to Knowledge Sharing in the CoP

Time emerged as one of the main constraints to why the practitioners do not share more knowledge in the community (4 respondents). One UNDP member noted "I wish we had the capacity to involve ourselves more fully. Time is one of our most valuable resources so time constraints are a real issue". One non-UNDP member responded this to what holds her back from sharing: "Time. And, honestly as a consultant -money. Even if I had more free time I'm not sure i would do it because i am paid per deliverable. If it’s not in the TOR [Terms of Reference] it is hard to invest the time. I do what i can and when I'm able to, but it's not a priority". Time also emerged in the survey as the biggest constraints to CoP members sharing knowledge in the WaterWiki (Survey). Another, even more significant reason was that many on the practitioners simply do not have enough knowledge to share. Many of them work on other projects that are not water related and many of them are therefore also part of other knowledge sharing communities. One UNDP staff member makes this point "I would be happy to find some of my time if i had something to share to contribute to the WaterWiki but my involvement is limited due to no water project".

One evident frustration and constraint to knowledge sharing in the water governance CoP was mentioned by a large number of interview respondents. This is the involvement in too many communities of practice and consequently the constant receipt of list e-mails (5 respondents). The UNDP, as mentioned above, strongly encourages knowledge management, knowledge sharing, and the establishment of communities of practice across the regions where the organisation is present. This means that each practitioner working, for example, in the 'Environment' practice, may be part of the 'Environment' CoP for his specific region, as well as various sub-practice CoPs such as 'water governance' or 'biodiversity'. This has lead to a growing number of e-mails and a decline in support for each CoP by each UNDP member. One UNDP staff member notes "In UNDP we have so many networks like this [water governance CoP] and sometimes you get tired and get lost in them. We have enough knowledge tools and networks. The amount of information is so big that sometimes you don't have time to follow up on everything". Another UNDP member makes a similar point: "There are several networks, so because we are busy we can't fully commit to each network". One UNDP member even believes that this issue may restrict her from her regular work: "UNDP has too much of knowledge management. I'm signed up to so many km networks so it gets a complicated, you can't get on with your regular work". Lastly, one UNDP member puts it very bluntly "[there are] too many networks and too many similar things going on, we are constantly bombarded with e-mails asking questions”.

There were other more interesting but more individual reasons for not wanting to share. One UNDP member suggested that he may not be aware of the benefits of knowledge sharing. He noted "it would be good to find some example of people improved their work, received money, found partners etc by sharing knowledge and information". This is interesting considering the time and money UNDP dedicates to knowledge management activities. Another point made by a three of the interviewees was that since the region is comprised mainly of former CIS countries many of the experts and colleagues locally communicate only in Russian (3 respondents). This will restrict who the CoP members can invite into the CoP and share knowledge and experiences with. One UNDP member located in Central Asia made the following comment: "When it comes to work with our external partners we restrict ourselves by using the English language. There are so many people in the region, especially in the former CIS countries [who deal] with water issues but still there are a lot of them who can not get involved and participate because of language issues ... we should reduce these language barriers. Another issue that was noted by one of the interview respondents regards power and hierarchy within the organisation. Knowledge sharing and CoP involvement is presented to members of the organisation as a flat, hierarchy-free activity that enables collaboration and knowledge flows across organisational levels. One UNDP member noted, however, that this was not the case in reality: "the whole hierarchy of the organisation is also a stopping factor [to knowledge sharing]... like am i allowed to contact an adviser somewhere, or not? It is not straightforward, it should be and it's presented as it is, but it isn't really".

Factors contributing to the success of the CoP

Despite of the problems related to knowledge sharing, all of the interview respondents agree that the CoP has been successful. They all give diverse reasons for this success. The facilitator notes that the open and welcoming attitude of the CoP members at the time of establishment was a significant contributing factor, "there was a readyness". Another UNDP member notes that the CoP is successful, but that it could be even more successful: "success is because most people are from the region, share the same problems, issues are very similar". A non-UNDP member acknowledges the effort and dedication by the CoP members as a reason for success: "a lot of people that are dedicated beyond job or money, a lot of people really want to move forward on issues”. Another UNDP member points to the diversity of the community: "it's a very multidisciplinary community, so it has a vast range of expertise which also makes it successful".

But one key reason for success of the community is the facilitator and the effort he has put into making the CoP into what it is today. One UNDP member notes that "when you have a good personality managing the communication it will be success, without [the facilitator] it would have failed. The facilitator himself recognises that the effort himself and his office have put into the development of the CoP has been significant. The RBEC-water e-mail list shows constant engagement from the facilitator, with e-mails sent out with reminders to add something to WaterWiki, vacancy announcements, upcoming events and conferences, new updates to the WaterWiki and so on (E-mail list). One other reason mentioned in the interviews is the face-to-face meetings that have been held at various times since the establishment of the CoP. One non-UNDP CoP member notes that these have been crucial for putting a living face to mostly virtual contacts.

Internet-based tools has also played a significant part in the development and success of the CoP. A couple of the interview respondents note the contribution made by the WaterWiki. One of the UNDP staff makes the following response to the question regarding reasons for success, "due to its flexibility, especially the WaterWiki. It's the fact that anyone can contribute and that there is a constant peer review process that people keep on adding to the knowledge base that has been created, that there is a focal point for that knowledge to be exposed. So I think basically that's what gives it [the CoP] strength, it's flexibility". A related technological factor was the Water Knowledge Management fair, a one-off online event for showcasing local water governance projects across the region and for practitioners to learn from others experience, is regarded by three of the respondents to have made significant contribution to the CoP. All knowledge and information contributed and demonstrated at this event was later written up in the WaterWiki by the practitioners themselves in a collaborative effort. One UNDP member notes, "the knowledge fair was very successful. that was a new experience". Another UNDP member says "its been like a promotion with the fair and that's what's made it [the CoP] successful". The same UNDP member notes at a later stage "a lot of people didn't like editing after the KM fair, but many people did complete the task because they thought they were doing something for a positive cause. It gave a sense of unitedness". Other, external, factors were also mentioned as having played a role in the development and success of the CoP. One non-UNDP member remarks: "Water was high on the political agenda a few years ago and this has pushed the debate forward. A lot of people were putting money into water projects". The same member also notes that the community is now much for inclusive than before: "What is really nice is that stakeholders are more and more being included, which was formally not that visible, stakeholders did not have a platform. This has changed a lot. There is no distinction between donors, government , NGOs etc made in meetings. People are more interested in having a closer community than before". Such external factors are likely to have played a large role in creating salience and motivation for the CoP.


Usage of the WaterWiki

The survey data shows that the general opinion of the WaterWiki in the CoP is very positive. None of the respondents want to see the wiki terminated and most respondents, for example, like the 'look and feel' of the wiki (Survey). One non-UNDP member notes "it is a site that provides resources and information pertaining to what i am looking for. It is well laid out".

The survey results show that most of the CoP members have used the wiki (4 out of 28 respondents had not). As mentioned above a high number of users use the wiki for knowledge sharing and collaboration, this means that the WaterWiki is almost as much used for collaboration and knowledge sharing as it is for storing information. This is highlighted by the finding that uploading lessons learned and other reusable knowledge is almost as common as uploading project information. Knowledge sharing, through sharing experiences, is important for the CoP members to share, as is information on projects (Survey).

A high proportion of CoP members find the pages in the WaterWiki useful and its content is relevant to most CoP members (Survey).

The CoP members considers a focus on reusable knowledge (lessons learned and experiences of CoP members) to be the most important function for the WaterWiki.

The interviews showed that many CoP members used the wiki extensively during the KM Water-fair (mentioned above).

Contribution of the WaterWiki to the work of the practitioners

Despite relatively positive opinions and high usage of the wiki, many of the interviewees consider the WaterWiki to make only limited contribution to their work (6 respondents). This does not however appear to be the consequence of the tool itself. One UNDP member notes, "its contribution is not enormous but its not because of the merits of the WaterWiki itself, its the fact that most of our projects are not directly water related. it's an occasional tool for me but its not a judgment of the merits of the WaterWiki itself". Another non-UNDP member sees even less contribution: "not much [contribution]. I mean i browse.. but as i say my issues are political". Another UNDP member's experience: At the moment not so much [contribution]. I follow it and check it regularly. Even though i wrote and edited input [during the KM-fair], I am not directly dealing with water issues at the moment. Another UNDP gives his reasons for not using the wiki much: It's important but i don't use it that much as i would if we had more projects related to water in Tajikistan. It helps me find experts, answers to questions and issues". Others use it when reminded: "In general it is very useful for information about water. My involvement is limited to following the request to place information". Or for a specific purpose "I only [use it] when I'm specifically preparing a brief note, whenever i need some information or similar experience".

Perceived benefits of the WaterWiki

The most common perceived benefit to having wiki for the water governance CoP is that it provides access to knowledge and information on water in the region. One non-UNDP staff member describes the WaterWiki as an 'all-in-one' feature: "It's an online handy resource... an all-in-one feature. It has the project by GEF [Global Environmental Fund] that I am interested in, to some detail actually. I can get all documents from one site without having to go through the whole google experience or through the GEF website looking for them. The WaterWiki is actually quite well structured in that regard, i like that format". A UNDP member notes the usefulness of the wiki compared to messages in the e-mail lists: "It's a more focused way than to have to go through the long list of global e-mail and try to remember a message that may have been relevant". Another UNDP member notes the benefits of WaterWiki as a reference point before contacting other CoP members: "Whenever you need information ... you shouldn't write to your colleague directly, you should go to the country page [in WaterWiki] to see what they have developed or search for the relevant documents and then for clarification contact your colleague. In this sense the WaterWiki provides a buffer-zone to check whether there is any water related activity or not and then go for details if information is not enough". A non-UNDP member noted the importance of the WaterWiki is that it acts as a vetted resource for knowledge and information: "In terms of general work it serves as a vetted resource. The information that is there has been vetted, this is a benefit above using google. [It's] good resource for finding info on people, addresses, numbers, project documents ... very useful way to access and share information, it cuts down on search time". One non-UNDP staff makes this animated comment: "I'm a fan of having our own little 'Britannica', which is how i see the WaterWiki". He continues, "It’s a lot more than a telephone directory, its got a lot of good information".

The WaterWiki is also beneficial to the CoP in terms of sharing knowledge and learning from others' experiences. One UNDP staff member noted that the wiki is good for "knowing who is doing what [and] learn about past experiences". Another UNDP staff made a similar remark, "you can find other country's project experiences and get the flow of their projects and that can be very useful. For that it's a great tool". While another UNDP member thinks the wiki is good for finding "methodologies, techniques and approaches that other countries use in the projects. I am interested in ideas so you don't have to re-invent the wheel, this is what the WaterWiki is good for". The survey showed the the CoP members are almost as likely to be used by the CoP members for sharing knowledge and collaborate as for storing information and documents (Survey).

Other noted benefits related to outreach and collaboration. One non-UNDP member notes "its helpful for me to know who else is doing work that is related to [water], because really, we know each other, but its a helpful forum to reach out to those people". She continues, "[It is] interesting also to look into who has been doing what on the wiki lately, what they have been reading and so on, and then get a sense of where their heads are and what they are thinking". Another non-UNDP member had a similar opinion: "I find it very important to have this contact and to have a regular stage where it's possible to post information on the web and reach a lot of people". A UNDP CoP member believes that the fact that anyone in the CoP can contribute to the WaterWiki is a great benefit. It is "a constant peer review process" where "people keep on adding to the knowledge base that has been created". The WaterWiki also helps to put the work of one of the CoP members into perspective: "If you can go on to an online database and access immediately the information that you need, and if you get case studies and examples from the entire region, it really helps to put your own efforts into context". A non-UNDP member believes that the WaterWiki is bringing the CoP closer together: "I think it [WaterWiki] is very important. We are all coming together closer in our work".

Constraints to sharing knowledge in the WaterWiki

The overwhelmingly most common constraints to knowledge sharing in the WaterWiki is time. This was the finding both in the survey and in the interviews (Survey, Interviews -6 respondents). One non-UNDP member makes the following remark: "Honestly speaking, I am just really using it when I get some information that says there is new information on the WaterWiki. Everybody has his or her own agenda and a lot of time you don't have the time to put aside for looking around on the wiki. I don't have time to do research about issues. I would like to have time". Another mentioned reason for not sharing knowledge in the wiki is the lack of water-related projects (2 respondents). One non UNDP member mentioned that she does not share knowledge in the WaterWiki because it is not in her contract and she is therefore not paid for sharing: "Honestly, as a consultant -money. Even if I had more free time I'm not sure I would do it because I am paid per deliverable. If it’s not in [my] TOR [Terms of Reference] it is hard to invest the time. I do what i can and when I'm able to but it's not a priority". The survey, however, showed that if knowledge sharing in WaterWiki was part of the CoP members terms of reference, this would not make a significant impact on their level of knowledge sharing (Survey). The survey also found that providing rewards for using the wiki would not make the CoP member use the wiki more (Survey). The following comments from one UNDP staff member illustrates the time constraint in relation to incentives for sharing: "[The] workload too high, [there is not] enough time. No extra time to contribute to the network. Although the issues are interesting and challenging, there is mostly no time to write, summarise and post. Although there is a requirement now that we should contribute at least two times to the network, that's the mechanism the management uses to incentivise us".

Another constraint relates to personal commitment. One UNDP member explains: "I don't upload enough information. I put it on my to-do list but it is always somewhere at the end. It's unfortunate because we have a lot to share. But what helps is that when people approach me, I send them the documents by e-mail. It's a matter of being committed, I have to have a personal commitment, put it in the calendar and update my WaterWiki page on a regular basis. It's a matter of personality, some people enjoy it a lot, it depends on the person".

Language emerged as a barrier to engaging in the CoP, more generally. One non-UNDP member notes this constraint: "I have contributed materials on our basin environment program and have circulated the website to our partners in the region, [but] most of them are not able to make use of it that much because the website is in English". One UNDP member notes that this constraint makes the WaterWiki introvert since it is unable to invite new users from Central Asia who mostly speak Russian. Another UNDP member makes a related point but sees the positive side to it "The WaterWiki from the very beginning was tailored for UNDP needs, now it has grown further but it serves its purpose. The beauty of it is that its regional, not too big. If it was global ... it would not have that much effect".

Another very interesting comment, by a non-UNDP member, on why she thinks CoP members do not share in the wiki relates to fear of misrepresenting oneself. She explains: "The right to water is more a personal interest [of mine], if I would post it there [in the WaterWiki] it may be that a lot of people would say 'the German government is trying to push this agenda'. There is always a danger of mixing up what people personally think and what is the government's way. This can be very tricky. It is probably the same for people working in other organisations, UNDP or NGO's. If you do not know who the person is you can not look behind the curtain to know why someone made a particular statement...[There is a] risk of misunderstanding between personal and professional intersts".

The WaterWiki -Features and possible constraints to sharing

The most common constraint to using and sharing in the WaterWiki that emerged both from the survey and the interviews relates to the sense that the wiki is too static, not dynamic or 'alive'. This is an interesting finding as it is precisely it's process-like and ever changing nature that has brought salience to wikis over the past years. The survey data showed that the CoP members would like to see more regular updates in the wiki, information that colleagues are using the material and knowledge that is shared, information on upcoming events, as well as an 'alerts' or notification system for notifying members when new pages are added that are of interest to them (Survey). All these findings point to the CoP members regarding the wiki as too static and stationary, not the continuosly changing process-like software that wikis are so famous for. One of the UNDP members explains, "if the wiki was more active, rather than being just a stationary, voluntary platform, that would compel me to participate". Another UNDP member puts it even more vividly, "when people are interacting virtually there is no direct feedback at every single moment, you might feel that there is probably no one using the information you have uploaded. You feel isolated, you are adding information but [there is] no visual way to see if anyone is using what you have uploaded". He continues to suggest that if there was a system for an "update every month, then that would give an incentive to see that people are interested and we would put more information up, update it all the time. This could be a good step forward".

The survey also found certain features of the WaterWiki that may act as a barrier to CoP members sharing knowledge in the wiki. The navigation in the wiki was problematic to quite a few respondents. In addition, many CoP members find it difficult to find information in the WaterWiki (Survey). Both of these are a matter of structure. The wiki software lacks structure from the beginning so the reason for this finding is related to the early decision taken, or not taken, during the set-up of the wiki.

One of the UNDP CoP members mentioned in the interview that the fear that the information posted in the wiki by other CoP members is incorrect may deter him and others from using the wiki. He makes this claim about the ability for all CoP member to edit in the wiki: "There is a plus and a minus to be able to add and edit your own info. [The] plus side is that it's very easy and convenient you don't have to go through any red tape you just put your information there. The downside is that if you are not careful and you put information that is erroneous then no one might ever notice and might then use that information in their reports, so there needs to be a peer review process of some kind to ensure that info is reliable". The same UNDP member continues, "the strength of the WaterWiki can also be its undoing, because by definition its a flexible and open process and therefore you could have erroneous, or information that is not up-to-date, and it might not be spotted".

The survey found that the content of the WaterWiki is very relevant to the practitioners. This can therefore not be seen as a constraint to the CoP members using the wiki. The survey also found that the practitioners like the 'look and feel' of the wiki, an interesting outcome as the wiki lacks any flashy design elements and has a very simple and clean look. A few findings from the survey pointed to the practitioners finding the wiki relatively to use: The help pages were satisfactory, the practitioners felt they had sufficient technical skills, and training on how to use the wiki was not a desire (Survey). This was supported by a couple of interviews (2 respondents) and one UNDP member noted that "the updating format is fine, it is not complicated”. This is an interesting finding as editing in a wiki requires learning some basic mark-up language to construct new pages and edit existing ones. The search function emerged in the survey, as well as one of the interviews, as a very valuable feature.

One non-UNDP member mentioned that she likes the profile pages of the WaterWiki: "I find it nice where you present yourself and what you are doing. People can post their own information they like and some people are only posting professional things others are saying that I am personally interested in this and that. This gives a very personal touch in my point of view. It is nice, I have been working for quite a few years in water issues, but a lot people I don't know or haven't met because they work in a different region to me. This is a good way to find out some information about other people which you normally wouldn't get if you are just changing your business cards. It's made very open and everyone can present what he or she likes". The survey, however, showed that the directory of CoP members and experts roster was not important to very many respondents.

The WaterWiki as a reflection of the CoP

This section deals with the extent to which the CoP members believe that the WaterWiki reflects the work of the CoP and its practitioners. The answers were mixed but all agreed that the WaterWiki reflects the work of the community to some extent. One UNDP member noted that the wiki only reflects the people who have time to contribute: "It reflects the work of those who have time to upload the information. I think there is a lot of people out there who are doing a lot of good work but may not have time to put the information up there. I know that i am often quite delayed in uploading what we're doing so there is a time lag between what we do and what actually ends up on the WaterWiki, and I think that's because of time constraints". Another practitioner makes this comment on the extent to which the wiki reflects the community: "30% based on my experience and the contribution I've made. Missing is more information and regular updates. But this is my fault, I don't upload enough information, I put it on my to-do list but it is always somewhere at the end. It's unfortunate because we have a lot to share”.

One non-UNDP makes this comment to the same question: "I think it probably does [reflect the work of the CoP]. The fact that there are not a lot of critical comments on the organisers or the people who administer it [the WaterWiki] is an indication of that it's doing its job to the degree that it can. I have never sensed that [critique] in the discussions with my colleagues at conferences. I think its finding its place, its still gropey. its trying to determine what it is and how it best serves its constituency and experimenting. Theres nothing wrong with that". A UNDP member is even more positive and thinks that the WaterWiki reflects the CoP to a very large extent. He makes the comment noted above that editing in the wiki after the KM fair gave a sense of unitedness for the practitioners.

Contribution of the WaterWiki to the development of the CoP

This section addresses the role of the WaterWiki in the development of the community of practice since it's establishment in spring 2005. Overall the opinion on this issue was very divided. A few CoP members think that the WaterWiki is too young to have made any significant contribution to the CoP in its development. One UNDP members makes this comment "it is too young to play an important role, it can not contribute and play an important role". Another UNDP member has a similar view "It is beginning to play an important part. [It is] too early to say but some results have been achieved". A non-UNDP member says this: "I think it has [contributed] but not as much as it could. It would be helpful if there was some way to for people to have time to do it". Other UNDP members note the significant contribution of the WaterWiki to the CoP: "I think it's been the core of the development of this CoP. It's got a central role in the development of this CoP and i think it should continue to do so in the future". Two other UNDP members agrees that the WaterWiki has contributed to a large extent.

Contribution to water governance issue

Three of the interview respondents note the important contribution the WaterWiki is making to the issue of water governance in the region in general. One UNDP member notes that for him the WaterWiki opened his eyes to water issues: "If the wiki didn't happen I wouldn't think of the issue of water as a subject". Another UNDP member recognises the importance of such a tool for the future: "It is the only specific network that focuses on water and as water becomes a major issue i think this is important to keep". Finally, a non-UNDP member makes this significant statement about the WaterWiki: "Anything that this type of exercise on water governance can produce at the beginning of the century may help to dampen the rhetoric and the political sword waving that will come later when fresh water access becomes more critical than energy".

Thoughts on improvement

Key Outcomes
  • The WaterWiki is not ‘alive’: Many respondents mentioned ideas on how to solve this. For example, section on new thinking/ideas from each country and organisation on issues on water to bring awareness and debates through the wiki; information on who are using the wiki, downloading/uploading information, reading etc; newsletter or similar with aggregation of relevant knowledge from the e-mail lists in the wiki; information that there is an adequate peer review process of the wiki; monthly discussion on specific topic in the wiki;
  • Too many e-mail lists and networks: this was a significant outcome in the interviews. RSS could be a possible way to handle this, where practitioners subscribe to the knowledge and information they are interested in.

 Anna Maron Thesis Interview summary Aug07.doc

640 Rating: 2.1/5 (32 votes cast)