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FEATURE: Planning a successful knowledge platform – A 9-Point checklist


The internet is an essential tool for climate knowledge brokers. It allows brokers to share information quickly across the world, to more people and at a lower cost than ever before. So many platforms are set up with this in mind and, months later, all the initial enthusiasm has died away and traffic and updates have dried up. With his long experience in the climate and development sectors, most recently as CDKN’s Senior Strategic Advisor for Knowledge Management, Geoff Barnard shares his ‘top tips’ for climate knowledge brokers who want to start or simply maintain a web platform of their own.

A platform can be well presented or contain all of the information in the world on launch, but still fail. From the biggest to the smallest project there are nine questions that need to be answered in the preliminary stages to ensure an online platform is successful:

  • What are your objectives? The online market is huge, but reaching your target audience is difficult. Are your objectives better met with face-to-face meetings or through the media?
  • Identify a distinct niche. There is no point creating a resource that already exists. If a knowledge platform is not different, and does not add value, it is likely to fail. Early research to avoid duplication and to identify potential collaborators is vital.
  • Narrowing down your audience. You can reach anyone online, but you won’t reach everyone. Different audiences that may need climate information have varying needs, and are engaged in different ways. Optimise your platform around your core audiences.
  • Understand your audience. If you don’t know what information your audience needs, when and how they need it and what language they need it in, you won’t engage with them. This information is best collected face to face, and integrated into the design of any platform.
  • Generating great content. Content is the most important factor in engaging an audience. As content rarely takes care of itself, a strategy must be formulated to create and continually present up-to-date, quality content.
  • Creating effective online communities. Effective online communities are rare, and aren’t built overnight. Take advice on how to create them, and never underestimate the power of a well-known contributor. Beware language and cultural barriers, though.
  • Getting your staffing right. Successful platforms need people responsible for editing, IT, design, subject knowledge, marketing and management. Some of these positions can be shared, but platforms without these roles fail.
  • Clarifying governance arrangements. Not all decisions are equal; some are big and some are small, but they all need to be made. Without clear rules on who is responsible for what, and clear procedures to ensure that things are consistent, any organisation will struggle to make decisions.
  • Creating a sustainable business model. Platforms that need continued injections of outside funding to keep the lights on fail. Without institutional guarantees of funding, or a self-sustaining business model, a platform can only last a few months.

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