KM on a dollar a day

Musing on knowledge management, aid and development with limited resources


with 17 comments

I’m Ian Thorpe (not the swimmer), and I’m currently working in UNICEF as Chief of the Learning and Knowledge Exchange team.
I’m facing a particular challenge which is that while we regularly speak about the importance of evidence and knowledge in our work, our systems, tools and practices are not well set up to share knowledge internally and externally in the way we need them to be.
The UN (as with many other aid/development organizations) is under a lot of pressure for funding and so we have very limited resources to be able to make the kind of fundamental changes we need to fulfill our vision.
This blog will be about my experiences as we try to overcome some of these obstacles as we try to meet the high expectations on us with little more than our limited staff time (and whatever we are able to beg, steal and borrow). I might also make the occasional digression into good donorship and aid effectiveness since these are two topics that I’m also passionate about.
I’m also a father of three, living in the suburbs of New York City.
Disclaimer: While this blog relates to my work, the views expressed here are my own, and don’t necessarily reflect those of my employer.

Creative Commons License
KM on a dollar a day by Ian Thorpe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Written by Ian Thorpe

August 3, 2010 at 1:16 pm

17 Responses

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  1. I see you’ve jumped into the blogging deep end, welcome! will be sure to follow, and include you in my list of blogs as well… good luck


    November 30, 2010 at 8:02 am

  2. Hi, Ian. Not sure the reply I tried earlier today got through, but just want to connect (and please delete this if it’s a duplicate).

    This is a very useful blog and I’ll be referencing it on our corporate site. I’ve just completed a knowledge strategy development project for UN-Habitat. Happy to meet sometime to share idea (I’m based in New York, although I’m returning to Kenya this week for the month of December to play – will be on safari until 27 December).

    All the best,


    Guy St. Clair

    November 30, 2010 at 9:04 am

    • Thanks – do look me up when you are back in town, and enjoy your vacation.

      Ian Thorpe

      November 30, 2010 at 12:28 pm

  3. Ian,

    I just read “KM on a Dollar a Day.” We at GlobalGiving have piloted an agile, beneficiary feedback model that enables NGOs to receive rich, actionable information. We are trying to hit on the points you enumerated in your post. You may be interested to learn more about it:

    If you would like to receive more material and to understand it better, feel free to e-mail me.

    Have a great day.


    Felipe Cabezas

    November 30, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    • Thanks for sharing – will check it out. I’m planning a follow up blog post on different ways of “listening” so this will be very helpful.

      Ian Thorpe

      November 30, 2010 at 3:13 pm

  4. […] happy to recommend Ian Thorpe’s blog (KM on a Dollar a Day) to colleagues working in KM/knowledge services. Ian Thorpe is writing about the challenges of KM […]

  5. Look forward to following your posts.😀

    David Shea

    January 19, 2011 at 1:03 pm

  6. What does the ‘KM’ stand for? (Is this a stupid question?)


    January 19, 2011 at 6:20 pm

  7. Hello,

    I recently compiled a list of the Top 50 Volunteer/Activism Blogs, and I wanted to let you know that you made the list! The list promotes blogs that focus on volunteer opportunities or work at the policy level for college students interested in learning more. The list is published online at

    Thanks so much, and if you think your audience would find useful information in the list or on the site, please feel free to share the link. You can also use the button we’ve created for the list, which I can e-mail you. We always appreciate a link back.

    Thanks again, and have a great day!


    p.s. If you have a header or logo, I would be happy to include it with the list.


    January 20, 2011 at 10:19 am

  8. Just wanted to say that I got this blog recommended and I love it! thanks for publishing your thoughts!

    Patricia Polvora

    April 5, 2011 at 4:50 am

  9. Hi,

    Just discovered your blog, which has a lot of helpful information. Also went to my first KM conference at USAID a week or so ago, and posted a small comment about this on my own blog at:

    Zarrin Caldwell

    May 17, 2011 at 8:10 pm

  10. I already loved your blog. But now that I know you are a fellow Buffy/ Joss Whedon fan…well, suffice to say you are at the top of my blog reader roster!

    April Harding

    June 29, 2011 at 7:34 am

  11. Hi Ian,

    I don’t see an email contact, but I think you might be interested in a project we’re working on in Amsterdam. We are trying to get development organisations to communicate and share projects that had different outcomes then planned for as well as share the lessons learned. It is called The Brilliant Failures Award: – I’ll try to reach you on Twitter.



    Brilliant Failures

    July 20, 2011 at 9:11 am

  12. Dear Ian

    Just a few things you might be interested in:
    – some research on how to improve evidence-based decision-making in aid agencies:
    – my attempt to explain complexity and its implications:

    Keep up the good blogs!


    Harry Jones

    May 24, 2012 at 3:42 am

  13. Dear Ian, Not long ago I re-printed your blog on too good to be true on the IFADAsia portal. I commented on that blog here in km_on_a_dollar_a_day to let you know that I was doing so. The legal department in my organisation came down on this citing it as mis-practice on my part and exposing the organisation to risk for copyright infringement as I had not ‘requested’ permission to reprint. I was sure that you had a creative commons copyright statement here, but cannot find it. Moreover, I cannot find any real way to contact you to have requested your permission to re-print. Any thoughts, comments, requests, suggestions…… Chase

    Chase Palmeri

    July 15, 2012 at 9:56 am

    • Hi Chase
      Yes, I haven’t put up a copyright/creative commons statement here, Perhaps I should look for the appropriate cc licence to add here. From my point of view I have no problem if anyone copies, quotes from or re-uses anything on my blog so long as they acknowledge the source, and ideally provide a link back to the original. I think that’s probably how it is with most blogs unless they state otherwise. I’m surprised your legal department had a problem with this as I’ve seen blogs widely copied or excerpted onto internal networks within the UN – or elsewhere – perhaps they are just not familiar with the practice – in any case feel free to repost anything you like from the blog on the FAD portal!

      Ian Thorpe

      July 15, 2012 at 10:22 pm

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