Change Factory Knowledge Platform

The Change Factory is a platform where environmental activists share knowledge

For Milieudefensie, the Dutch chapter of Friends of the Earth International, Cosent realised De Veranderfabriek (The Change Factory), a platform where environmental activists share knowledge.

The site offers an online knowledge platform for the entire Dutch environmental movement. The Change Factory is structured using a classical watch-learn-do approach:

Watch
The Knowledge Base provides searchable background information on various topics.
Learn
The Toolbox offers step-by-step help in organising a new initiative.
Do
The Network connects activists with each other and facilitates learning by sharing practical experiences.

The site is currently only available in Dutch. See the Dutch intro video to get a feel:

Knowledge Management in action

Effective knowledge management and sharing of knowledge results not just from publishing documents ("explicit knowledge"). Much learning and knowledge sharing results from the interactions between people, in which they exchange "tacit knowledge" - stuff you know but didn't know you knew.

The Change Factory is designed to support both aspects, in the form of a knowledge base with documents (explicit knowledge) on the one hand, and a social network geared towards conversation and interpersonal contact (implicit knowledge sharing) on the other hand. A toolbox with learning tools connects both aspects into a learning resource.

As a knowledge platform, the site supports a cycle of knowledge flow and knowledge creation following the well-known SECI model:

SECI diagram
Socialization: sharing knowledge in conversation.
The network promotes direct contact and dialogue between environmental activists, by not only describing the what of an activity, but also who the organisors are and presenting their contact info. Additionally, a discussion facility on the network makes it easy to exchange experiences.
Externalisation: writing down your knowledge.
The network is built around the exchange of "experiences", documenting an action format, so people can learn from successes in another town and replicate the format. This helps to articulate tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge.
Combination: searching and finding knowledge.
The searchable knowledge base, organised by theme, facilitates the re-use of knowledge. Documented action formats in the network all follow the same stepwise model, making it easy to mix and match steps from various formats in creating your own activity.
Internalization: turning learning into action.
The toolbox with process support documentation helps you assimilate best practices by bringing them into practice, following a simple four-step plan. Here, you absorb explicit know-what knowledge and internalize that into tacit know-how.

De combination of these approaches turns The Change Factory into much more than just a set of documents. The site is a living whole where people communicate and help each other to become more effective, in facilitating the transition of our society to a more sustainable world.

Realisation

Following the initial project brief, Cosent performed design research in the form of a series of interviews with intended users of The Change Factory. These interviews inquired into the way activists collaborate and communicate in practice, focusing on what people actually need and how a online platform could contribute to their success.

What emerged from the research, is that nobody wants more long documents. Nor was there any need for a marketplace-like exchange of services and support. Rather the interviewees articulated a need for quick-win snippets of actionable knowledge that can immediately be put into practice.

Based on the outcomes of this research, we introduced the Network aspect of the platform: a social network centered on the sharing of succesful action formats, structured in a way that facilitates dialogue, direct contact, and re-use of proven formats across multiple cities.

After articulating this concept into an interaction design and visual design, Cosent built the site in Plone CMS. An initial crew of editors seeded the site with initial content. Recently, the platform was publicly unveiled and immediately attracted scores of active users.

Site: The Change Factory

Concept: Milieudefensie and Cosent.

Interaction design and realisation: Cosent.

Visual design and logo: Stoere Binken Design.

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