Creator of Knowledge
Information Resources Management Association
Advancing the Concepts & Practices of Information Resources Management in Modern Organizations

Knowledge Management Challenges in the Non-Profit Sector

Knowledge Management Challenges in the Non-Profit Sector
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Author(s): Paula M. Bach (The Pennsylvania State University, USA), Roderick L. Lee (The Pennsylvania State University, USA) and John M. Carroll (The Pennsylvania State University, USA)
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 7
Source title: Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Second Edition
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Mehdi Khosrow-Pour, D.B.A. (Information Resources Management Association, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch372


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The concept of knowledge management is rooted in cognitive psychology and organizational theory. Knowledge management is concerned with the creation, storage, and distribution of knowledge by groups, organizations, and communities. Two theoretical frameworks are instrumental in shaping the knowledge management discourse: organizational knowledge creation (Nonaka, 1994) and organizational knowledge (Spender, 1996). Widely cited in the literature is Ikujiro Nonaka’s (1994) explication of the epistemological and ontological dimensions of organizational knowledge creation. Michael Polanyi (1966), makes a distinction between tacit and explicit (codi- fied) knowledge in the epistemological dimension, whereas social interaction is the foundation of the ontological dimension. Over the years, the term knowledge management has been conflated with organizational learning and memory. Realizing that knowledge, memory, and learning are all interrelated, John-Christopher Spender (1996) proposed a knowledge-based theory of the firm. The knowledge-based theory of the firm is primarily concerned with the collective capabilities of generating, combining, and applying knowledge. Given the advances in computing and telecommunications technologies, scholars have considered how information technologies can be used strategically to facilitate knowledge management (Alavi & Leidner, 2001). For example, wikis, blogs, content management systems, and the like provide dynamic infrastructures that support the creation, transfer, and application of knowledge. More importantly, these tools enhance organizational memory that can subsequently be shared across time and space. However, a knowledge friendly culture (Davenport & Prusak, 1998) precedes an effective knowledge management program. The purpose of this article is to explore the challenges that arise in nonprofit settings, particularly the ways in which knowledge is stored and transmitted through an organization’s culture. We propose two key challenges that influence organizational culture: acceptance of change and leaders’ ability to develop a knowledge friendly culture. We conclude with a discussion on the role that these factors played in constraining a knowledge friendly culture in two case studies.

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