For the past 25 years, the Social Investment and Solidarity Fund (FOSIS, for its Spanish acronym) has been a key instrument for the Chilean government to implement ground-breaking social policies and programs benefitting the most vulnerable population in the country. At the same time, FOSIS constitutes a reference institution for its Latin America and the Caribbean homologues, and increasingly for partners in other regions. Based on strong demand from abroad in areas such as social protection, youth employment and income generation, the Fund now cooperates with a number of homologue institutions, for example in Dominican Republic and El Salvador, while also exchanging knowledge with peers from Colombia, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa. Finally, FOSIS was one of the key institutions showcasing its business and operational model during the Second High-Level Meeting on Knowledge Hubs (HLM2), held in Seoul in June 2014.
But how far has FOSIS gone to become a Knowledge Hub, that is, an institution that systematically shares high-quality knowledge?
In a recent webinar hosted at knowledgehubs.org, representatives from FOSIS department for international cooperation, program management, research and evaluation, and communications debated the progress made. Attended by participants from around the world, the session focused particularly on FOSIS’ experiences in building partnerships and using efficient implementation modalities. In addition, the main speaker, Claudio Prim and his colleagues Ghia Gajardo, Andrés Pereira and George Barrias, also addressed a range of overarching issues to take into consideration when engaging in South-South knowledge exchange and building a KH.
Among the key lessons FOSIS can share today, the following might be most relevant:
Knowledge Sharing can evolve out of traditional development cooperation, but requires specific institutional and operational capacities: As many other institutions in Chile (including the national agency AGCI), FOSIS succeeded in maturing conventional North-South aid into innovative cooperation forms. The transformation of GIZ as a triangular partner is a good example of building this kind of horizontal partnerships. For KS to become a consistent part of FOSIS evolving portfolio, a number of capacities have been build, among them a dedicated team, clear reference guidelines and learning modules. Institutional and operational capacities are being developed through in-house investments, but also external support including by partners such as GIZ.
Scaling up international KS should be based on sound internal KM: For many Southern organizations, the desire to share knowledge comes with the commitment to better manage knowledge internally. FOSIS plans to upgrade its ability to capture and systematize relevant experiences, for example through a mapping of good practices in its 15 subnational offices (which attend Chile’s regions). In line with experiences in other emerging Knowledge Hubs (such as Indonesia's Disaster Risk Agency BNBP), the improvement of internal Knowledge Management is not only key to focus and structure KS with peers abroad, but actually shapes a new form of learning from ongoing operations and improving these.
To tap the potential of partnerships, institutions need to learn to be open-minded and flexible: Involving a large range of actors, Knowledge Sharing is a great opportunity to extend and deepen partnerships beyond the traditional give-and-take logics. And beyond conventional partners such as GIZ, FOSIS has been particularly proactive in articulating forward-looking efforts with non-traditional partners such as América Solidaria, a Chile-based CSO, which collaborates with FOSIS through voluntary work programs. New types of partnerships have also emerged in thematic networks, including the Inter-American Social Protection Network (IASPN, in LAC) and the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI), both of which help broker and connect to peers, while identifying successful solutions and best practices in FOSIS’ priority areas.
Consistent approaches are key to successful implementation, but M&E continues to be the main flaw of today’s KS: As part of its cooperation guidelines, FOSIS relies on a number of clear-cut and practice-proven approaches that help make KS more effective and efficient. For instance, all projects and initiatives follow the same management cycle (from demand to evaluation), are based on a set of principles (including ownership and monitoring) and use a similar mechanism of co-management (the “mirror teams” where all participating institutions are represented equally throughout the process). Similar to the experiences of other institutions (as debated during the HLM2), FOSIS sees a key challenge in moving towards more systematic Monitoring and Evaluation, and ensuring overall result orientation. This implies not only smart M&E tools, but also a new take on the readiness of staff to plan for and document results, while also embedding results in co-management mechanism shared with partners.
As many peers might remember from the HLM2, FOSIS is one of today’s most advanced sector players that are active in Knowledge Sharing. This is particularly true for the range of partnerships built, including the ‘mirrored team’-based co-management, and the maturity of modalities being used. At the same time, a number of open question marks remain from the webinar discussion including the added value of different modalities and the options for in-house Knowledge Management as a precondition for effective KS. These will be further discussed at our sister community knowledgehubs.org.