Knowledge solutions for a health-challenged world
Does doing good mean having to reinvent the wheel? Many NGOs (non-government organizations) and charity organizations are acting that way, but maybe there is another way to think about it. There’s a growing knowledge-based practice for creating social change, measuring impact, and promoting social goals. Controlling the flow of information isn’t as daunting as some time and budget-strapped organizations think.
Overcoming challenges and delivering impact
NGOs and charity organizations usually work with people, for people, and the primary tool they use to deliver their services is a personal connection. Yet, they often don’t see how a tool other enterprises use—such as knowledge management—can help them better connect with their communities and serve their goals.
You might say they have a lack of knowledge about knowledge management.
The reasons organizations give for not investing in knowledge management software tools differ. Some non-profits and NGOs think their services are so unique that no digital solution can help them. There is also a digital fear and lack of infrastructure, or, they may say, financial barriers prevent making such a big investment.
Most of all, they perceive knowledge management as a solution for technology-based organizations such as call centers and high-tech applications. But knowledge management is suitable for any organization—including people’s organizations.
Enosh, the Israeli mental health association, provides community-based mental health services to more than 15,000 service users in 75 centers across Israel, coordinating with 950 mental health professionals and 1,000 volunteers. Enosh knew it needed to keep its professional knowledge handy, organized, and transparent and that doing so would help it work more efficiently. It needed a solution to gather the scattered knowledge and keep the great tools that are developed in the field.
Could knowledge management work Enosh? The answer was yes, provided the knowledge management solution could adapt to and support its way of meeting needs and goals.
Knowledge solutions for a health-challenged world
The pandemic has had an increasing effect on people’s mental health worldwide. It’s also disrupted mental health services in most countries, just when those services are needed most. A knowledge management system can be critical to organizations such as Enosh continuing its vital work in two ways:
- Collecting, organizing, storing, and making accessible decades of gathered knowledge and professional wisdom.
- Recruiting and training new staff members and volunteers, rendering long and expensive orientation times unnecessary.
Finally, all the information that had been scattered across dozens of locations became accessible to Enosh’s hundreds of staff members. It reduced the complexity of work processes and saved valuable time, as staff members no longer needed to recreate documents that already existed.
There are other benefits for non-profits such as Enosh that invest in knowledge management.
- Volunteer and staff engagement: Aside from training, a knowledge management system helps broaden employee and volunteer experience and develop a culture of learning for the organization.
- Sustainability: here’s far more to sustainability than being “green.” For non-profits, sustainability means ensuring they can thrive during economically and politically trying times. And it means founders, donors, stakeholders, and volunteers discover long-term value in the organization.
- Public engagement: Engaging more people and gaining their support for your efforts typically involves thinking outside the box. Knowledge management can be the disruptor nonprofits need to find credible alternative models for attracting more supporters.
- Enhanced efficiency: Sharing knowledge builds trust and contributes to improved decision-making.
- Accountability: NGOs answer to the communities they work with and for. A knowledge management system ensures a non-profit has ample, strong evidence to amplify the voices of those they serve.
- Revenue generation: Every non-profit knows fundraising is key to helping it function and achieve its overall mission. Knowledge management simplifies the process of tracking donation and incoming revenue data as well as potential sources of revenue.
COVID-19 served as the catalyst for Enosh to implement a knowledge-sharing solution. KMS Lighthouse helped Enosh implement a knowledge management system that helped it overcome its challenges and deepen its impact.
What did Enosh learn along the way?
- While implementing a knowledge system is fairly straightforward, it takes extensive financial, human, and technological effort to create a culture of knowledge sharing.
- Breaking down long-established silos of information takes time as people, including leadership, are often resistant to transitioning from the way things have always been done.
- Finding where the lack of a knowledge management system was hurting Enosh's daily work went a long way in justifying the investment and obtaining buy-in from all interested stakeholders, including senior leadership.
The impact knowledge management can have for non-profits
Enosh now knows that knowledge management can help non-profits mitigate risk, increase efficiency, support training and learning, and gain better outcomes. Perhaps one of its most significant benefits, though, is how it assists in raising awareness for organizations by helping them deliver high-quality, tailored services that increase their impact on individual lives and bolster local, state, and national economies.
The system makes Enosh more efficient, connected, and develops its organizational social capital to promote its strategy and goals. In essence, it provides a new way to manage professional mental health knowledge in a changing world.
Empowered by technology, forward-thinking NGOs and non-profits are undergoing significant transformations from purveyors of good intentions to organizations with measurable impact. Because knowledge management software makes knowledge more accessible and adaptable, it can play a vital role in helping organizations move in a direction of growth and greater significance while also connecting with people who were previously out of reach.