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June 13, 2017

Employee Spotlight: Learning Fellow Leah Denise Wyatt

Ms. Leah Denise Wyatt, a Learning Fellow, has been employed by CAMRIS since 2014. She currently supports the U.S. Agency for International Development/Uganda Mission. This interview was conducted in June 2017. 

Q: Please describe your role at CAMRIS and tell us about the project you are currently working on in Uganda.

A: I provide institutional support to USAID. I was hired as a Learning Fellow to apply my knowledge, skill, and ability to guide USAID/Uganda into becoming a strategic learning organization through its program cycle processes.

Q: What drove your interest in communication and knowledge management for development, and how has your background prepared you for your current role?

A: Right out of undergrad, I worked in urban development in Portland, Oregon. I brought my training in mass communication to that position in support of the community affairs team.  It was in that role that I was able to translate complex information about engineering and construction to a lay audience that would be affected by a big change in their community, which was a new light rail line. I made highly technical information digestible and actionable for the community so that they could participate in the urban and economic development happening in their communities.

What also drove my interest was the priority the organization set on stakeholder engagement, from design to implementation. I became interested in knowledge management because I was in a position where I organized and managed large volumes of content for various information and knowledge needs.

Q: What leads to successful stakeholder engagement?

A: An organization must listen first to understand the challenges people face and then match the knowledge and capabilities it has to an effort that supports the solutions stakeholders need or demand. Engaging stakeholders in the design and implementation of solutions offers organizations opportunity to transfer knowledge and skills that add topline value to stakeholders.

Q: In your opinion, what makes a great/effective communication strategy?

A: Knowing your audience, and having an ability to hold a disciplined listening posture is the foundation of an effective communication strategy. A deep understanding of how users receive, internalize, and act on messaging, a cycle that tests its communication approach, and an ability to adapt the approach based on what is learned makes an organization communication strategy effective.

Being effective also means having streamlined learning processes. This is not always present in international development programs and activities. Monitoring systems dedicated to strategic communication plans help us learn whether communication approaches are effective and catalyze a conversion into a specified action. 

Q: Could you highlight some good practices in knowledge management?

A: Knowledge management requires structural design. Contrary to popular belief, effective knowledge management is not haphazard. Effective communities of practice are not “organic.” Knowledge management must contribute to and be in alignment with an organization’s strategy. Knowledge management gives an organization's leaders the information it needs to determine whether it is adding value and creating change. A strategic selection of knowledge that informs the topline enables a structural and system design that collects the right data and information about performance and effectiveness.

Another good practice is to apply knowledge management to all areas for which an organization believes it has a strong capability or position among its competitors or comparators. Addressing the knowledge and information needs about how an organization and its competitors and comparators are doing gives insight into how its competitive or comparative advantage can be strengthened and leveraged in a manner that adds value to clients and stakeholders.

Q: What do you believe are the key components for fostering a culture of knowledge sharing?

A: I believe there are three components for fostering a culture of knowledge. The first component is reciprocity. I was raised on the “give and you shall receive” precept. Sharing knowledge is not only for the recipient, but it is also for the sender. The act of sharing can return as recognition, acknowledgment as a resource, or a title given as an authority in a subject or area of interest. The act of giving usually multiplies.

The second component is openness. To be completely open to what you do not know and open to receiving and learning new things, helps create a demand for knowledge. An organization’s openness to learning and gaining new knowledge begins with its leadership and those delegated with the authority to make strategic decisions.

The third component is curiosity. Being curious is a demonstration of your openness and a willingness, interest, and ability to be ever learning.

Q: Information and communication technology (ICT) plays a significant role in sustainable development. How do you believe we can make ICTs more accessible to rural populations in developing countries?

A: Making infrastructure development and manufacturing part of the international development agenda can be the game changer. Infrastructure that supports ICT such as water, power, fiber optics, and the like attracts investors to emerging markets, in addition to friendly business policies.

CAMRIS has experience sourcing highly skilled talent to support massive investments in developing countries and emerging markets. CAMRIS can supply investors in infrastructure development with little experience in emerging markets with skilled and specialized talent that can navigate these settings so that there is a maximum return on investments that support ICT.  CAMRIS also has a capacity building and consulting capability. It is well positioned to transfer and develop knowledge and skills in the workforce so that investments are sustained.

Q: We are interested in your expertise. Is there something important you would like to bring attention to/highlight?

A: I am passionate about developing the 21st-century workforce in emerging markets. Information and knowledge plays a prominent role in all aspects of development in the 21st century and requires a much higher focus on networks and collaboration, in addition to information management.

I am passionate about exposing people entering the workforce to network, collaboration, and information management skills. Investments will come to developing countries, but if the workforce isn’t ready, development will take much longer to realize. I want to prepare the next generation of the workforce to drive and lead organizations in emerging economies.

I was asked by the State Department Bureau for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs’ Information Resource Center in Kampala to lead a panel of women working in science, technology, engineering, and math following a screening of “Hidden Figures” for a selected group of senior-level female students (high school students). The students are interested in STEM fields but may be unsure of what they want to study at the university level. I am really excited to be a small part of their decision-making and planning process for their future.