Although knowledge management sounds a fairly new concept which became popular in 1990's, it is confirmed by several writers such as Hicks et al, (2006), that 'knowledge management is an age-old practice'. The history of knowledge management originates from over thousands of years ago. Most organisations wrote down selected knowledge about their trade for future reference. This kind of writing ensured that there is a consistent and permanent record of rules, laws, collective knowledge within organisations and the government, Bergon (2003). During early civilization, a lot of knowledge started to be destroyed leading to the emergence of safe storage of gathered records. This led to the first organization devoted to Knowledge Management, 'the library'. These libraries were created, organized, run by the modern-day librarians, who we could also refer to as professional knowledge managers.
In the early corporate world, management could establish simple rules concerning the organisation's stored data. These rules were then taught to a number of staff who would then operate and process the data. This clearly demonstrates that in the early days, knowledge was largely preserved in the minds of a few top executives and officials in corporations or government. In modern times, Bergon (2003) says that the knowledge worker hierarchy has now been dominated by graduates and qualified professionals. The knowledgeable workers then go up the organisational structure to become managers who in most cases have a better view of the organization's dealings than the lower level staff.
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However, because the lower level staff lack this over view of the business, they may also lack a process in place to share knowledge of best practices. As a result, there is a high likelihood of duplication of mistakes across the various departments; there could also be lack of transfer of best practice and cross-learning across the organisation. This has become the motivation behind the advancement and developments in the field of knowledge management which is now being viewed as a new branch of management. Rooney et al. (2008) maintains that people must therefore be creative in finding new ways to create and share knowledge with one another, through knowledge management practices that recognize the value of knowledge in various forms.
The perceived value of knowledge cannot be ignored anymore. According to Tiwana (1999), one of the key aspects that differentiate successful organisations is the importance they place on information and knowledge. These organisations can trace their success to their ability to generate, collect, manipulate, store, and convey data and information in more effective and efficient ways. Organisations have continued to not only pursue the use of data and information, but more importantly, the use of knowledge to gain market leadership and competitive advantage. Knowledge has now become an invaluable asset in organisations, the management of the organisational knowledge is now seen as a strategic component in organisations more so in profit-making enterprises which are geared to gain considerable and exponential growth in the 21st century. The same cannot be ascertained in business membership organisations which are non-profit in nature and in most instances, run by volunteers; the latter forms the basis of this study.
1.2 Private Sector Advocacy and Business Membership Organisations
The ultimate output of a political system is public policy and the main objective of business membership organisations (BMOs) is influencing policy in relation to the business environment, Grossmann (2012). Influencing policy makers is arguably the most significant part of advocacy - motivating them to take action that directly or indirectly helps to fulfil the objectives of the advocacy intervention.
Simply put, advocacy is the act of influencing, or attempting to influence, the way that someone else thinks about an issue. So private sector advocacy describes attempts by the private sector to influence public policy in an effort to improve the business environment. Effective advocacy requires a thorough understanding of the particular issue being addressed, the ability to prepare evidence based policy proposals and the opportunity to meet with and persuade policy makers and implementers in government to do something differently or, occasionally, not to do it at all. In addition to influencing and communication ability, advocates will also require persistence. In the private sector, advocates for policy change are mostly business associations which are commonly referred to as business membership organisations (BMOS).
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Business membership organisations are organisations where corporate companies or individual business entrepreneurs are registered members. Formal BMOs exist as registered non-profit organisations that represent the collective interest of their members. According to a World Bank (2005) report, business membership organisations are categorized into two, business associations and chambers (of commerce and/or industry). Business associations represent businesses in a specific industry or size while chambers will be formed by businesses in certain geographic regions. However, all business membership organisations have some specific and common features. They are established as non-profit membership organisations whose operations are largely financed by membership subscription fees (mainly annual fees), grants and service fees. Their principal objective is to undertake collective action on behalf of members. The main services offered to members include: training & information, advisory services, market intelligence & trade facilitation, lobbying & advocacy, networking and in some instances, agency services on behalf of government.
Out of all the services offered by business membership organisations, advocacy to the Government for a better business environment is at the centre of all BMOs activity. However, the World Bank (2005) report highlights that in developing countries including Kenya, governments are not willing to listen to private sector associations and were unwilling to change rules and regulations to support development. Governments view business membership organisations as an intrusion and untrustworthy. The case for Kenya has however improved over the last 10 years since the NARC (National Rainbow Coalition) Government came into power. At the commencement of the first phase the Business Advocacy Fund in Kenya, that is, between 2006 and 2010, out of the 37 supported business membership organisations, 22 of them achieved 56 changes in public policy, Irwin (2012). Achieving such significant success in a complex policy making process was possible by applying a combination of several advocacy activities such as dialogue mechanisms and platforms, direct lobbying and advocacy, involving grass root members through campaigns and litigation/lawsuits. Indeed influencing policy change is not straight forward, rather it can be complex and mix of tools and approaches need to be considered.
1.3 The challenge of knowledge retention and management within BMOs
However, the existing challenge in business membership organisations is to sustain the impact they have created so far, improve their individual organisational profiles, increase their capacity to advocate the increasing interests and concerns of their members, become strong organizations with proper governance structures and respond to their members needs by delivering required services and information. The challenge is compounded by the fact that only a small percentage of these organisations are both organisationally and financially sustainable.
Having worked with many BMOs, I've learnt that very few have a secretariat, and the few experience serious staff turn-over, where the key staff leave the organisations with vital knowledge. Many of these organisations which don't have a secretariat are run by a selected team from the board of directors. This team forms the executive committee which changes every so often, annually or every two years. In some instances poor governance has elicited competition and politics within the organisation. With this kind of an environment within business membership organisations, continuous learning and knowledge retention is greatly hampered. There has been a growing need for better management of information and ultimately knowledge management, in business membership organisations if they are to be able to maintain their impact in influencing policy.
In this study, as we look into the concept of knowledge management, we'll have a look at several terms related to this field. One critical term is 'knowledge'. Knowledge is a widely used term, normally applied in all kinds of context but yet there is no universally acceptable definition of 'knowledge'. Arguably, knowledge is now accepted as a crucial resource in organisations. This has led to the rapid development of Knowledge Management (KM). Managing knowledge as a resource is now a strategic role, especially in the competitive, corporate world. Other terms related to this field are data and information, which are critical components of deriving knowledge.
This study will focus on knowledge management being an aspect of knowledge creation, sharing and application to create and/or sustain private sector impact on the policy environment. For this to happen sustainably, we can therefore also argue as Warren et.al (2006), that the need for performance improvement underpins the need for knowledge management. All that the private sector needs in order to effectively conduct its business is a favorable business environment; we'll be right also to say that the policy environment has a direct relationship with the business environment. Therefore, an improvement in both the government and private sector performance in ensuring an enabling environment for business is a daily struggle. Knowledge management, as Warren et.al (2006) puts it, comes to ensure the "right information gets to the right people at the right time, to help people create, share and act upon information in ways that will measurably improve their performance."
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Specifically, this is a case study on knowledge management in business policy advocacy in Kenya. It will examine the extent Business Membership Organisations (BMOs), specifically private sector associations, are aware of and actually apply knowledge management in their organisations; with the purpose of sustaining their advocacy competence.
To think of how to start gaining, store and share/transfer what has been touted to be the differentiating yet valuable asset, 'knowledge', we need to begin with an attempt to clarify the difference between data, information, knowledge and wisdom. These four terms are commonly used interchangeably, yet they mean different things.
2.1 Data, information, knowledge and wisdom
Data has been defined as raw facts which in themselves might not make much sense. It is a set of objective facts of an event.
Information is processed data which then can be used and applied in the various aspects of the organisation/enterprise. Information is data that provides significance and rationale; it arises from interpretation of data, Firestone and McElroy (2003).
When information is then applied in a given context, it starts transforming into knowledge. Although not precisely defined by many researchers, our working definition of knowledge as suggested by Davenport and Prusak (1998), is "a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, expert insight and grounded intuition that provides an environment and framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. In organizations, knowledge often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories but also in organizational routines, processes, practices, and norms."
The simplest way of defining knowledge is taking it as 'actionable information', if you are able to apply information in a way that will enable you achieve some results or make certain decisions, then that is knowledge. Knowledge evolves over time and it denotes experience and lessons learnt over time by individuals in an organisation. Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) have defined knowledge as "justified true belief".
Wisdom then results from knowledge gathered over time to provide insight and intelligence. Wisdom is about having the best means to judge action based on knowledge. Wisdom is also greatly influenced by beliefs and assumptions, and therefore will be difficult to relate to data, information and knowledge.
However, this study primarily focuses on knowledge which is a subset of information and data, and which organisations can be able to gather and utilize. According to Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995), knowledge is classified into Tacit knowledge and Explicit knowledge.
2.2 Tacit and explicit knowledge
This is the knowledge that resides in the mind of the individual and cannot be directly expressed. In most instances, tacit knowledge would be difficult even for the individual person to fully express it. A common cliché says that, 'there is always more to what one says' meaning that your mind has much more that you really say. Therefore, tacit knowledge is unstructured and revealed more through behaviour than through speech and articulation.
The major shortcoming of tacit knowledge is that it resides in the individual's mind, therefore cannot be shared unless there is some form of queried communication which then can be captured (in this case tacit knowledge becomes explicit knowledge) for further use.
In their account, Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) continue to describe explicit knowledge as 'codified' and can be conveyed in organized and defined languages. This knowledge is mainly codified in documents, databases, websites, blogs, books, journals and etcetera, and unless utilized within a perspective provided by experience, explicit knowledge fails to be very useful. Therefore, most attempts have been made to present it in forms of process diagrams, manuals and contracts.
Even with this effort to define knowledge, it still appears that there is a gap. The definitions seem to be insufficient given that it is almost impossible to capture knowledge, store it or even transfer is precisely and entirely, more so given that most of it resides in people's minds and in the way the 'owner' understands and views it. I'd like to therefore concur with Polany (1967) who given the gap between tacit and explicit knowledge, talked about a third category of knowledge, "implicit knowledge". Implicit knowledge is that knowledge that cannot be entirely explicit / expressed and also is not completely understood by the individual. Another way of looking at implicit knowledge is as explained by Tiwana (1999). He suggests that knowledge resides in conversations between people, connection, skill-based insight, and the ability of people to draw a comparison between circumstances, setbacks, and resolutions. In reality, only a small portion of this kind of tacit knowledge can get codified or formalized in documents, books, presentations, manuals and databases, the other portion remains inside people's heads.
In conclusion and to put knowledge into context, we'll shift our focus on organisational knowledge which is mainly that actionable knowledge that members of the organisation remember and use.
2.3 Business membership organisations as knowledge organisations
Knowledge organisations have also been referred to as knowledge-centric, knowledge-based organizations, knowledge-oriented organizations, knowledge intensive organizations, and so on, Davenport and Holsapple (2008). One of the main characteristics of knowledge organisations is that knowledge is viewed as a key asset in the organization, or rather; it is an organisational asset that facilitates action.
The view of business membership organisation as knowledge organisations is embedded in the IA (intangible assets) framework reviewed by Davenport and Holsapple. They look at intangible assets of the organization as those assets which are rooted in the capabilities and competency of its personnel. This means that all the interactions made by the staff in the organisations both internally and externally contribute to the development of this intangible asset.
In the case of business membership organisations, the greatest value of the organisations lies on the people involved in running the affairs of the organisation. They could be termed 'knowledge workers' although in some instances they might not necessarily be very highly educated, but rather have vast knowledge of the industry. According to Irwin et.al (2012), successful advocacy is highly dependent on the nature of dialogue and interactions between the staff in business membership organisation involved in a specific advocacy and lobbying initiative and the targeted public official(s).
2.4 Why knowledge management for Business Membership Organisations
Organisations have now come to the realization that the better they can be at utilizing the available organisational knowledge, both tacit and explicit, the better their chance of success. Although there may be varying definitions of the subject, knowledge management, Gupta et.al (2008) refers to knowledge management as "an emerging, interdisciplinary business model dealing with all aspects of knowledge within the context of the organisation." This model mainly consolidates the creation of knowledge, codifying it in a specific form to allow sharing in a way that will encourage innovation and learning.
If we consider Wenig's (2008) view, knowledge management is made up of activities which are specific to the organization gaining knowledge continuously as it forms its own experience and also by benefiting from the experience of others; and on the thoughtful use of this knowledge to accomplish the full purpose of the organization.
The overall purpose of knowledge management is to take full advantage of the organisation's knowledge or what is also referred to as the enterprise-wide knowledge and utilize it for the maximum returns that could accrue to the organisation. This forms a good case to justify why business membership organisations could benefit from knowledge management. Although they are not profit making companies, in many ways their returns are not based on monetary benefits. Rather, the returns in this case are measured by the extent to which registered members are getting value for money (membership subscription and service fees charged) and the extent to which they feel that their interests are well represented, in terms of lobbying and advocating for an enabling environment for them to do business.
The private sector membership organizations have indeed been able to deliver appropriate changes in public policy in very significant ways. As noted earlier, the Business Advocacy Fund has facilitated over fifty-six (56) successful changes in public policy; further success has been noted in other quarters for instance, the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) 2012. The direct impact created by KEPSA alone, as a single business membership organisation is significant; it has undertaken over thirty five (35) projects all geared towards creating an enabling environment for business. These projects range from policy advocacy, facilitation of dialogue mechanisms e.g. the Prime Minister's Round Table and the Speaker's Round Table, facilitation of peace campaigns, facilitation of trade and investment missions, and development of public strategies for different sectors from where policies are derived, among others.
As more is being done within these business membership organisations, there is a growing concern that many of them may not become sustainable fast enough given the various challenges facing them. The most significant challenge in these knowledge organisations is the issue of capturing both tacit and explicit knowledge that could then be shared with new staff, new board members and further capacity building of other business membership organisations; this is continually becoming a serious sustainability and continuity concern.
According to the World Bank (2005), coalitions and alliances could be useful means of increasing the number of individuals and organizations supporting a given business membership organisation in its advocacy initiative on one or more issues. These partnerships will improve the organisation's profile, credibility and visibility on the advocacy measures. This is important especially if the business membership organisation is an emerging one (relatively new), quite small or very specialized thus not being accepted by the government as to be credibly representing a majority of businesses. In some instances, even the larger and more established business membership organisations might have to seek broader support in a more globalized world or the 'global village'. This then becomes one of the other key reasons for BMOs to embrace knowledge management. To enable this 'cross learning' and transfer of best practice, not just within the organisation but also across the different organisations that could be working together regularly on a specific sector-based and industry-independent advocacy issues.
2.5 Avoiding knowledge management failure
In a case study conducted in Japan, Hong Kong, by Chan and Chau (2005), not all knowledge management programs succeed. Their study was based on an organisation that actually implemented a knowledge management program that failed thin two years. The major shortcoming from this study is that it was based on one organisation only. The reasons for failure could differ across different organisations; however, it is worth considering these four key lessons as to why knowledge management could fail, since these lessons could also be applicable across board and especially in the context of business membership organisations.
Firstly, before any knowledge management programs are implemented, the organisation should have a knowledge management plan that is based on realistic expectations. Planning based on expectations which are realistic promotes the organisation's ability to direct its future actions successfully. If the plan is seen to be feasible and reasonable, it inspires employees to examine their individual knowledge and transfer other people's knowledge when they see that is can help in meeting new challenges and enhance the current practices.
Secondly, the top leadership, be it the board or senior management in the organisation should promote and demonstrate commitment to knowledge management. As much as possible, management and the leadership should lead by example and champion the process together with the receptive employees.
Thirdly, to stimulate the necessary behaviours and knowledge management culture, develop an appropriate reward system. Although there is a tendency of most organisations to adopt monetary rewards, other rewards systems aimed at the individual or team success could be adopted so as to encourage creativity, teamwork, interaction and harmony in the team.
Fourthly, since knowledge management is much of behaviour change than an instant push-button system, there is need to nurture and cultivate knowledge management. It takes a change of attitude, behaviour and approach to transform staff from knowledge hoarding to knowledge sharing, from a silo-working culture to a participatory-working culture that is based on mutual trust.
2.6 Knowledge Management and technology
Several books have been written extensively on the use of technology to promote knowledge management. The process of building databases from where data mining techniques can be applied has been explored. However, it is important to consider Bergeron (2003) who argues that since knowledge management is an evolving, and dynamic organisational process, it cannot be a 'shrink-wrapped' IT product. The present day knowledge management insists on static IT systems, for instance, enterprise systems or databases; which imply that most organisations' primary focus is utilization of knowledge or the creation of knowledge through IT.
I however reflect on Nonaka and Reinmoeller (2000) as they argue that for explicit knowledge to be created and exploited, then information technology has provided the appropriate structure. In the context of knowledge management, IT has three key advantages: it enables efficiency, creates effectiveness, and facilitates velocity.
As I look at both Bergeron and Nonaka's views, one key denominator is that both seem to agree that information technology systems are tools for knowledge management and therefore organizations need to develop dependable dynamic systems to enable what Nonaka and Reinmoeller (2000) call "Dynamic Knowledge Creation and Utilization (DKCU). This is considering that organisational systems are routine based, therefore DKCU systems need to be able to generate and utilise the creative routines which generally are entrenched in tacit individual knowledge.
Mehdi (2006) brings in the aspect of data warehousing. He argues that there might be a danger of getting erroneous and incomplete discovered knowledge when using operational relational databases. He has now shed light into an area of my interest; he observes that data warehousing integrates data gathered from various sources, which in this cases will be databases, into a dedicated database specially designed for decision support. To enhance the knowledge discovery process, a data warehouse will include integrated data, both detailed and summary data, historical data and metadata.
Technology plays a key role in knowledge management and this study will also seek to find out level of information technology adoption in business membership organisations.
2.7 Knowledge Management in Africa and in Kenya
In Africa, there has been an attempt to advance the field of knowledge management. Policy advisers and researchers in sciences established the Knowledge Management Africa (KMA) Foundation. This Foundation aims to encourage the exploitation of scientific and other various forms of knowledge by decision makers in the private and public sectors across Africa. Mosoti and Masheka (2010) reflected the mission of KMA being, "to promote the use of Africa's collective knowledge as a key development resource and establish knowledge management platforms that will create access to existing networks and facilitate the sharing and utilization of knowledge across all sectors."
To advance the idea of further research on knowledge management in Africa, three conferences have been held so far to fine tune this new management concept. The first one was held in 2005 in South Africa, Johannesburg; the second one in July 2007 in Kenya, Nairobi and the latest one in May 2009 in Senegal, Dakar, Karanja, (2010).
The motivation behind the formation of KMA comes from the realization that it is important to tap the knowledge of Africans to the greatest extent possible. Despite that Africans have always been known to be great story tellers, growing up in the rural Kenya, I have noticed this culture is slowly fading with the rapid developments, urbanisation and changing education systems. At a general level, the thinking is that for organizations that desire to be sustainable in the midst of competing pressures must consider innovation and creativity as strategic interventions. To achieve the needed levels of innovation, organisations then need to take stock and what members of staff know, maximise on this to enable better decision making and consider knowledge management as a key leadership role that will deliver value to the organisation.
African scholars and policy makers seem to have embraced the concept of knowledge management and in Kenya, the Kenya Vision 2030 according to GoK, (2007) aims to position Kenya as a knowledge-led economy in which the creation, adaptation and use of knowledge will be one of the most significant aspects for rapid economic development. The Kenyan government has embraced the fact that Vision 2030 will be achieved on the basis of a knowledge economy in a bid to improve the welfare of Kenyans and accelerate the economic growth of the country.
On his part, Ndemo (2012) discussed that Kenya has now made serious commitments and has actually moved towards creating a knowledge economy. A knowledge-based economy is an economy in which the production, distribution and use of knowledge is the main driver of growth, wealth creation and employment across all industries. "The release of data and subsequent development is encouraging evidence-based decision making. Open data is a powerful tool for research that must be utilized to create better policies" said Dr. Ndemo. He continued to say that the Open Data portal was implemented by the government of Kenya and launched in 2011, supported by the World Bank; its aim is to develop a knowledge strategy that will see more government data released for public use.
In a bid to evaluate the extent to which organisations have implemented knowledge management, Mosoti and Masheka (2010) undertook a study focussed on knowledge management practices (KMP) in organizations in Nairobi, Kenya. Their study revealed that some organisations have implemented knowledge management practices to some extent; however, the concept is not well understood. They realised that the challenges faced by most organizations are how to create and implement knowledge management practices as part of the organizational strategy, organisational culture and organizational leadership. One of their recommendations was that both profit and non-profit organisations should consider how best to capture both tacit and explicit knowledge.
In his study, Maingi (2007) aimed to develop a knowledge management readiness score, a measurement index which would measure the extent to which organisations in Kenya are ready to implement and utilise knowledge management to their advantage; based on some six parameters. The study focussed on the need to integrate knowledge management in organisations as an additional measure for sustainability, profitability and continuity. This was considered besides the known traditional measures including financial statement analysis for instance profit and loss accounts, and balance sheets. The readiness score was also considering the individual staff direct contribution to the ultimate profitability of the organisation. In his conclusion, one of his observations was that many people are still unaware of what knowledge management entails or actually what it means to their respective organisations, therefore there is still need for further awareness creation and further education on knowledge management. On reflection, I thought that his study could be applicable mostly in a profit making corporate sector which have already developed the measures for analysis, most of which could be aligned to his proposed six parameters. This might be a challenge to the unsustainable and weak non-profit making business membership organisations to be considered in this study.
On their part, Mwangi Et. al., (2010) explored to what extent formal knowledge management initiatives exist in the software industry in East Africa. The study found out that there is no formal research, neither is there an open initiative for software development in the East African region. Their study proposed a framework which could be the used to establish a knowledge management among the software industry stakeholders in East Africa. They also discussed several stages of the proposed framework and their respective output, which seem helpful in a technology sector which encourages high expertise.
Kipchumba, Et. al., (2010) conducted a comparative assessment between farms owned by Egerton University and those of neighbouring competitors on the use of knowledge management as a source of sustainable competitive advantage. One of the key findings of this study was that privately owned farms had been able to acquire more information that Egerton University. The most striking difference was that the privately owned farms knew and had clear reasons for acquiring the information unlike the university. This made privately owned farms more competitive that the university farms and that they also acknowledge that information management is a critical knowledge management practise. The aspect of information management and growing this into knowledge management seemed a practical approach for business membership organisations.
The private sector in Kenya is extremely vibrant and has been acknowledged by government as the driver of the economy and is expected to play a critical role in employment creation and poverty alleviation. At the macro level, Vision 2030 is a development blue-print that aims to get Kenya to a middle income level. This will be achieved through several flagship projects which are largely infrastructural or involving policy reform. The policy reform will be achieved though improvement of current legislation and development of new ones. According to the new constitution, the government will be required to undertake public consultation as laws are being formulated.
Consultation may take various forms, however, in the private sector, most businesses are organized around their respective industries or economic sectors and they form business membership organisations; some of which were formed over 40 years ago. To ensure better consultation in regards to business regulation in their respective industries, business membership organisations have continued to engage the Government though various advocacy interventions. They mainly talk to government on various issues including market, taxation, security, infrastructure and trade issues among others. The Business Advocacy Fund (2010) has established that in Kenya, there are just less than 300 registered business membership organisations and associations which have been engaging government on policy issues for a long time. Out of the existing business membership organisations, only about 5% are sustainable both organizationally and financially; and are therefore able to effectively undertake advocacy activities.
Because policy making and advocacy could be complex, there is need for these organisations to continuously share their learning in a bid to continuously grow their advocacy competence. Knowledge management would therefore be a crucial area of interest for business membership organisations to consider. Indeed with proper knowledge management, organisations in a certain sector e.g. manufacturing can share knowledge within the organisation as new staff and board members join and with other business membership organisations which need support to improve their advocacy competence. They could also spread their support to other parts of the continent or the region as they seek to jointly lobby policy makers at the regional level such as the East African Community (EAC) or Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA.
2.8 Lessons learnt and justification of this study
The literature reviewed clearly demonstrates that adopting knowledge management as a strategy is valuable for organisational development, organisational success and organisational sustainability. Given the highly dynamic political and economic environments, organisations that would like to succeed need to embrace and institutionalize knowledge management in their operations.
In Kenya, a number of studies by known authorities dealing with knowledge management have been conducted. Some of them have been reviewed here while others were not explicitly captured for this study. Some of the studies reviewed here include Maingi, 2007; Mosoti and Masheka 2010; Mwangi Et. al., (2010) and Kipchumba, Et. al., (2010). Other studies which have been done by other known authorities, although not reviewed here include: Ogara et.al (2010), which looked into how knowledge management is being embraced in veterinary services sector; Ireri and Wairagu (2007) an AMREF study on the use of knowledge management to bridge the gap in public health in Africa; Mutethia et.al. (2004), conducted a study on integrating knowledge management in AMREF's water and sanitation program.
Despite a number of studies having been conducted in Kenya, none of these researchers have addressed the implementation of knowledge management in business membership organisations in Kenya; neither have the studies looked at organisations and interest groups involved in business policy advocacy in Kenya. I was also able to establish that none of the existing business membership organisations have undertaken a study on knowledge management as it relates to their intervention on business policy advocacy. This then informs the reason behind my interest in this study. As an advocacy expert, I would like to find out the extent to which BMOs have embrace knowledge management and why they think it could be beneficial to them. As an IT student, I know that practical knowledge management is technology dependent; therefore, this study as a part of Bachelors Degree in Business Information Systems becomes relevant since each of the stages and steps in the knowledge management process, as well as tracking knowledge assets, can be enhanced by information technologies. From an IT perspective, a processor running on a PC could aid the process of information creation; the Web and the associated networking hardware can facilitate further information acquisition; servers, software, databases and data warehouses can make storing, manipulation and processing of large volumes of data possible; further to this, wireless networks makes it possible for the provision of anyplace, anytime access to information by end users by use of mobile and hand held gadgets/devices.
3.0 Problem definition
In the past few years, a number of business membership organisations have successfully managed to convince government to change existing policies and regulations based on the needs in the business environment and issues affecting their members. While other business membership organisations are succeeding in their advocacy interventions, some struggle to post successful engagements. The creation and use of coalitions, networks and advocacy partnerships has continued to be emphasized in order to increase the chances of success. Many still need to be able to keep improving their credibility, increase their advocacy competence and internal capacity to advocate and ensure there is a sustained organisational culture to enable this to happen continually.
Given that very few of these organisations are both organisationally and financially sustainable, staff turn-over is a common occurrence. The difficulty of staff to keep members satisfied yet in a very dynamic economic and political environment drives many staff out of their jobs, and as they leave, they go with valuable knowledge useful for the organisation. This has necessitated many business membership organisations to establish advocacy committees derived from the board of directors who work alongside the staff to deliver better advocacy initiatives and complement the lost staff. The shortcoming of this approach is that the composition of the staff and the committee members changes quite regularly creating pressure on the need to share information and best practices. This indeed forms the basis of the need for knowledge management to help business membership organisations keep track of their activities, advocacy tools used, relationships created with Government, and results recorded; to ensure continuous learning and knowledge retention.
Common knowledge management practices are recommended for these types of organisations which could produce share or transfer knowledge across their communities of practice, especially in the case where networks and alliances are being greatly encouraged. This study therefore aims to investigate the extent to which business membership organisations involved in business policy advocacy in Kenya have embraced knowledge management to ensure that these knowledge organisations achieve sustained organisation continuity.
3.1 Aim of the project
Aim of of this project is to undertake a case study on the application and adoption of Knowledge Management in Business Membership Organisations involved in business policy advocacy in Kenya.
3.2 Specific project objectives
Conduct a literature search and review on knowledge management to get a better understanding of the subject and its adaption in Kenyan organisations.
Collect data by engaging business membership organisations involved in business policy advocacy to gauge the extent to which they apply knowledge management in Kenya; specifically in business membership organisations whose key mandate is to lobby/advocate policy issues to government on behalf of their members.
To analyse collected data and draw conclusions on how knowledge management is being adapted and implemented in organisations in the above context
To analyse the findings and produce a report which demonstrates the gap in existing adaption of knowledge management while proposing possible solutions to fill the gaps.
3.2 Theoretical framework
As knowledge management continues to be at the centre of organisational strategy, many people especially scholars and policy makers are now more interested in frameworks for institutionalizing knowledge management. Sunassee and Sewry (2011) proposed a framework consisting of three main interlinked components: Knowledge Management of the organization, Knowledge Management of the people and Knowledge Management of the infrastructure and processes. They further state that the organization needs to achieve a balance between these three subsystems in order to achieve a successful Knowledge Management effort. This model focuses on aligning the knowledge management strategy of the organization to the overall business strategy of the organization. The culture and managing the culture change when implementing knowledge management are also of utmost importance.
The focus according to (Sunassee and Sewry, 2011) should be on the importance of the employees of the organization, and their contribution towards a successful knowledge management effort. They further state that there should be concerted effort to make people feel part of the change in institutionalization of KM. There is need also to encourage individual learning and innovative thinking with employees. Rewards are given to those staff that produces results. Finally, according to (Sunassee and Sewry, 2011) the infrastructure and business processes of the organization cannot be neglected when implementing knowledge management.
They highlight the importance of hardware and software that will facilitate employees to share and disseminate knowledge throughout the organization. The framework is as shown below.
4.0 Research strategy and deliverables
4.1 Research design
This study will be undertaken as a descriptive research. A descriptive research involves the use of surveys and fact finding enquiries, Kothari (2004). The reason for using a descriptive research approach for this study is because what I aim to establish is the state of affairs at present when it comes to adaption of knowledge management in business membership organisations.
4.1 Population sampling
The selected sample population for the study is 20 to 25 business membership organisations, where one of the management staff, e.g. the executive officer, of the organisation or one of the executive committee members involved in the management of the organisation will respond.
This sample was arrived at using deliberate sampling, Kothari (2004). This method of sampling, also known as non-probability or purposive sampling was chosen given the fact that the focus of the study is on much defined types of organisations which are known. The selected organisations to respond to this study had a mix or emerging and established business membership organisations. The other reason for choosing this sampling method was because the focus was on business membership organisations with a national reach but with headquarters in Nairobi.
Therefore, all organisations engaged are national business membership organisations with members and chapters/regional offices spread across the country. Despite there being a large number of business membership organisations (about 300) in the country, a large number of them are emerging organisations which engage in minimal or no advocacy activities, Business Advocacy Fund (2010). This means that only a small number of them are actively engaged in policy advocacy for a better business environment. According to BAF (annual report, 2010), it supported 58 advocacy projects to 37 business membership organisations between 2006 and 2010, resulting in 56 policy wins (i.e. changes in rules, regulations and legislation agreed with the Government of Kenya as a result of their successful advocacy). This is still the current trend. Therefore, by selecting a sample to 20 to 25 active business membership organisations for this study, I'll be engaging 54% of all private-sector-policy-active business membership organisations. The interest of this study is those organisations which are actively involved in private sector policy advocacy on behalf of their members, thus the sample size.
4.2 Data collection
Structured questionnaires are to be used for this study. This is to ensure that the respondents are as objective as possible. The questionnaires will be self administered and personally delivered to the respondents by the researcher due, (i) to the possible differences in literacy levels across the different respondents; and (ii) to ensure all targeted respondents have filled the questionnaire, i.e. to tackle the problem of non-responsive and uncooperative respondents. The role of the researcher when delivering the questionnaire personally is only to be available to clarify any question or section of the questionnaire which might not be obviously understandable to the respondent thus reducing the error margin and ensure the coding process that will follow is more straight forward.
The questionnaire has two main sections. The first one is the current status of knowledge management in the organisation. This section has eight questions which mostly involve just the selection of one appropriate response, or rather, selection of the most appropriate statement in relation to the organisation. The second section is on the common practices of the organisation regarding knowledge acquisition, capture and sharing. This section has a mixture of questions to do with technology and attitude and as well as the respondent's judgment. This section has nine questions most of which have multiple answers, whereby the respondent has the liberty to select one or more responses that best apply to the organisation.
4.2 Data analysis and reporting
The completed questionnaires will be collected, all the questions will then be coded and later transcribed into the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software. The data will then be cleaned to remove any variations between the transcribed data and the data in the questionnaire. The reason for choosing SPSS is because it is a reliable and specially designed tool for statistical analysis. SPSS is also valuable in generating descriptive statistics accurately. Frequency tables in SPSS also help in viewing the analyzed data in an understandable format. SPSS is a good software for generating pie charts and bar charts for accurate presentation and reporting. The report will incorporate the pie charts, bar charts, tables and percentages which will form the basis for further explanation of the findings.