Sankofa- Learning From The Past


I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy.
Tony Robbins



The picture above is the adinkra symbol for Sankofa. It is often associated with the proverb “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” Sankofa represents the importance of learning from the past. One thing most non profits admit that they wish they were better at is taking the lessons from the past and applying it to the now. As an industry we need to become much better at Knowledge Management.

 Knowledge is an asset, and  it should be treated like any other asset . Its valuable and ultimately- just like money or any other property – contributes to the success of your organization.
Careful use of your institutional knowledge, like other assets, can result in better decisions, particularly, at the working level. It’s not decisions made by strategists at the top that make or break a company; but the sum total of the day-to-day decisions made at the front lines of an organization.  Better knowledge management = better decisions.
 Better decisions are achieved by spending less time on information gathering and more on the creative process.  Remember my other post- Create or Die. You want to make sure you have time to create.  Its hard to create  when you are spending the majority of your time gathering information… again, because no one can put there hands on the original project plans or because the only person who had the needed information has  taken a new job with another organization. What do your front line employees need to get the job done?
 You should provide tools  that:
  • Increase relevant information access– Making sure your  staff   have the  information  they require to get the job done in a timely manner
  • Facilitate collaboration & knowledge sharing– Do they have enough resources? do they know where to go to check? Is there one simple, accessible  location  for hosting  all the important information
  • Retain institutional knowledge-We all know how hard it take a new hire, train them, teach them everything they need to be effective in their role then 8 months watch them walk away……UGGGGGHHHHHH
  • Overcome organizational & geographical boundaries– More and more teams are virtual, better knowledge management helps organizations become more efficient and affective at the work they do
  • Shorten decision making cycle time– Ummm…who amongst us does not want to see THIS happen.

Guess what you will get back in return?

  • Lower cost of doing business
  • Higher quality products, decisions & recommendations
  • Increased productivity
  • More time analyzing collection

 Quoting from Madanmohan Rao’s “Leading with Knowledge”, the 8 C’s of Knowledge Management framework are:

  1. Connectivity: What connectivity devices, bandwidths, interfaces, technologies and tools do your employees  have when they are in the office or on the road?
  2. Content: What knowledge assets are relevant to the context of your work flow, and what are your strategies for, classification, archival, retrieval, usage and tracking?
  3. Community: What are the core communities of practice aligned with your business and what organizational support do you have for identifying, nurturing, and harnessing them?
  4. Culture: Does your organization have a culture of learning where your employees thirst for knowledge, trust one another and have visible support from their management?
  5. Capacity: What are your strategies for building knowledge-centric capacity in your employees, for instance, via workshops, white papers, mentoring and e-learning?
  6. Cooperation: Do your employees have a spirit of open cooperation, and does your organization cooperate  with business partners, industry consortia and the communities they serve?
  7. Commerce: What commercial and other incentives do you use ? How are you “pricing” the contribution, acceptance and usage of knowledge assets?
  8. Capital: What percentage and amount of your revenues are invested in your Knowledge Managment Practices, and how are you measuring their usage and benefits in monetary and qualitative terms?


Everyday I drive my kids a little crazy because I remind them to “make good choices” but you need good data before that can happen. Be bold in the pursuit of knowledge. Non profits can not tell alternative stories for communities if they do not utilize one of  their strongest assets— because we all know that knowledge is power. Use that knowledge to creat a new level of success for the communities you serve.

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