In 2001, through its Long-Term Strategic Framework, 2001–2015, ADB committed to become a learning institution and a primary source of development knowledge in Asia and the Pacific. Strategy 2020 reinforced this commitment when it underlined knowledge solutions as a driver of change in this decade.
In 2004, the Knowledge Management Framework signaled ADB's concerted efforts to become a learning organization. The framework pursues two mutually supportive outcomes: (i) increased assimilation of and dissemination by ADB of relevant, high-quality knowledge to developing member countries and other stakeholders, and (ii) enhanced learning within ADB.
In 2008, a review of the Framework recommended quick-wins in various areas. The recommendations led to the approval of the Knowledge Management Action Plan, 2009–2011, a comprehensive set of actions designed to ensure that ADB's knowledge continues to expand, is practical and usable to its staff and DMCs, and remains of the highest quality. The action plan works toward 4 key results:
In March 2010, ADB crafted a Knowledge Management Results Framework to operationalize the action plan and monitor its implementation. In quarterly intervals beginning July 2010, ADB tracked the progress of the 37 action points specified in the framework.
The Knowledge Management Action Plan 2009–2011 was completed on 31 July 2011. Of the 37 action points, 70% had been fully adopted, 8% largely adopted, and 16% partially adopted by July 2011, the plan's termination date.
ADB leverages its comparative advantages—expertise in identifying trends in the region; capacity for interdisciplinary and integrated approaches; and ability to blend knowledge and insight with large, concessional financing—to generate and share operationally relevant knowledge. At the regional level, the TA Strategic Forum defines a focused and coordinated approach to identifying and organizing regional studies. At the country level, ADB incorporates knowledge management indicators, activities, and resources in the country partnership strategies to ensure that knowledge management processes are effectively mobilized in policy dialogues, and program development and implementation. At the project level, ADB encourages project teams to emphasize knowledge management-related considerations—innovative features of the project, prospects for impact evaluation, avenues for learning, etc—when developing loan and technical assistance proposals.
Communities of practice are groups of people who share a passion for something they know how to do and who interact regularly to learn how to do it better. By asking, learning, and sharing, they help manage tacit knowledge.
Communities of practice have become the heart and soul of knowledge generation and sharing in ADB. Introduced in 2002 after a bank-wide reorganization, they received a boost when their empowerment was mandated under the Action Plan for Knowledge Management, 2009–2011.With additional staff positions, increased budget, improved collaboration tools, and continuous efforts to integrate them in ADB's operations, the communities of practice have been able to help formulate country partnership strategies and loan products, deliver customized courses for their members, conduct self-assessments of their effectiveness, and collaborate with partners in joint research and knowledge sharing.
Partnerships and networks can be an invaluable resource for development agencies. ADB established 24 regional knowledge hubs—17 on water-related topics and the rest on finance, trade, partnerships, and sustainable development— to encourage research and networking on innovative knowledge products and services. With the aim of fostering stronger partnerships, ADB also began incorporating knowledge components in new partnership agreements and built a database of strategic partnerships for use across ADB. It is currently designing a platform to enable bank-wide management and monitoring of knowledge partnerships through decentralized uploading of data and information. In 2011, ADB published the Guidelines for Knowledge Partnerships to inform the upsurge in strategic, sector and thematic, and operations-based alliances resulting from Strategy 2020's call for more effective partnerships.
With a boost from both the Knowledge Management Action Plan and Our People Strategy, ADB is paying particular attention to the continuous upgrading of staff skills to meet the evolving needs of developing member countries. Among the new courses developed for staff were short and longer courses under two series—Learning for Change Primers and Knowledge Management and Learning Series—to promote awareness of, and action on, knowledge generation and sharing. ADB has also ramped up its efforts to capture, store, and share the tacit knowledge of past and present staff using techniques ranging from storytelling to exit interviews. Concrete products have already resulted from these efforts, among them the introspective ADB: Reflections and Beyond, the ADB Sustainable Development Timeline, and more.
The Knowledge Management Center is responsible for coordinating and monitoring all knowledge initiatives within ADB as well as the action plans that constitute it. The Center also undertakes a variety of other tasks designed to develop and nurture ADB's knowledge management and learning environment. For instance, the Center's Knowledge Solutions series attempts to broaden ADB staff's understanding and acceptance of knowledge management and learning. The Center also introduces quick and easy strategies for dealing with knowledge management-related issues, e.g., how to think strategically, manage information overload, zero in on performance, and more. The Knowledge Showcases series, on the other hand, highlights ground-level innovative ideas.
Another of the Center's thrusts is to promote knowledge management and learning. Its activities toward this include, among many, enriching the knowledge management and learning webpages, producing and disseminating collaterals, providing advice to other ADB units vis-à-vis sharing or knowledge harvest, and reaching out to external partners who can serve as knowledge resources for ADB.