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"Associations" bring community to diverse World Bank

"You can no more separate knowledge management from the Web than you can separate learning from books" is the maxim offered by Michele Egan, knowledge manager for World Bank’s Human Resources Group, and John Kim, information analyst with its Information Solutions Group.

In developing a KM infrastructure for the HR Group, Egan and Kim wanted to avoid the heavy-handed hierarchy and static nature of many Web sites. They saw the need for a more vibrant, social tool--one that would help foster communities of interest among World Bank employees.

Creating community was particularly challenging because employees at World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C., represent 170 different countries--all with different cultures and idioms. Nothing falls into neat formulas and no one person or thing purports to know everything.

"YourNet was designed purposefully to be democratic," says Kim. "It's about the way people interact."

Egan and Kim say that the quality missing in traditional models of information management is mobility. YourNet moves information in response to spontaneous interactions between the people who contribute information and those who use it. It uses Web pages to accomplish that, and a self-authoring capability allows any user to create a page within five minutes, without being technically savvy, they say.

The author of a Web page can "associate" his or her page to any other Web page in YourNet. That act of association dynamically links the information captured on the page and the authors of the information. YourNet monitors that association, and as other authors associate themselves to existing information, more complex linkages are created and monitored. Those linkages become the basis for new electronic communities of interest and practice.

After a page is created, any user within the system can link to that page or incorporate it into his or her page. Thus, information is packaged according to the varying needs of individual users. Because creators and users determine categorizations and linkages, the results are spontaneous and adapted to the context in which each user lives.

YourNet was engineered from its inception with knowledge sharing as an explicit goal. "The result," says Egan, "is a highly interconnected Web site where the associations between people, skills, projects, communities, organizations and products/services become visible for all to explore.

"Our built-in relationship management engine," she adds, "provides dynamism to content on the sites with freshness dating/reminders, e-mails to inform interested parties of related new or updated content, and the automatic creation of communities around areas of interest and/or practice."

In designing YourNet inhouse, the World Bank worked with two companies: QDMQDM, developer of the relationship management engine, and IconixxIconixx, an interactive design firm.

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