Earlier this week I read an interesting article in the McKinsey Quarterly called Knowledge management comes to philanthropy that appears in 2003 Number 2 (for the full-text, you will need to register). I was planning to post a summary when I received a very nice one by e-mail from Shy Alter, the CEO of ii3, a Toronto-based consultancy that focuses on KM. The company also sells a KM product called AdvanceKnowledge.

The article focuses on Baltimore-based Casey Foundation, which “has for over 50 years been a leader in improving the lives and opportunities of disadvantaged children and their families by financing programs, conducting research, and promoting the reform of public-service systems.” Here is Shy’s summary of the article:

  • Philanthropic foundations are knowledge-intensive bodies
  • Casey’s new staff members had a limited understanding of the history of the foundation
  • Senior associates were now working in areas beyond their expertise, they needed more information from colleagues to do their work successfully
  • What they needed to know wasn’t written down; it had remained in people’s heads
  • Casey soon realized that if it was failing to share its expertise adequately with its own staff, it must be failing to do so with the recipients of grants and with external policy makers
  • Casey began to develop processes that would help senior associates set down their knowledge quickly and efficiently
  • Developing a comprehensive knowledge strategy and thinking through knowledge management in detail are essential
  • Casey’s program defined the entire process: what knowledge should be harnessed, who should codify it, how it should be maintained and disseminated, and who should receive it it had started to build the institutional memory that would support its future works