Knowledge Management within the United Nations Development Programme: A Case Study of Knowledge Management and its Impact on the Implementation of a Renewable Energy Project

Yasmim Domingues Tuxen

Student thesis: Master thesis


The predominant use of fossil fuels has detrimental environmental effects and is unsustainable in the longer term. In contrast, energy efficiency through renewable energy supply presents a unique opportunity to tackle some of the environmental challenges the United Nations has addressed in the Sustainable Development Goals launched in 2015. A wide range of renewable energy technologies are recognized as growth industries by most governments. Additionally, developing countries can give access to affordable energy for all and lower the environmental impacts with the implementation of a renewable infrastructure.
One of the United Nations Development Programme ́s (UNDP) role in national contexts is to help to build capacity in developing countries to integrate environmental considerations into development plans and strategies, by means of knowledge exchange and technology deployment. The Country Office ICT Advisory Services (CIAS) unit in the UNDP has, since 2014, adopted a Green Energy Solutions (GES) project with a strategy to improve the UNDP office facilities with a sustainable approach, by installing solar PV systems in every UNDP Country Office (CO) around the world. By leading by example and using the internal project as a pilot experience for specific national contexts, the UNDP can disseminate information, transfer technology and assist with policies for facilitating the promotion of renewable energy in developing countries.
However, the Green Energy team of the GES project faces challenges regarding the engagement of the ICT managers in COs with the new proposal coming from the CIAS unit, which is the installation of Power Consumption Measuring and Monitoring (PCMM) devices. These devices support the measuring and monitoring of electrical circuits for a proper design and installation of a solar PV system. PCMM installation is part of the 1st step of the 7 step solar solution process the CIAS unit provides as a service to the COs.
This paper presents a theoretical exploration of knowledge management (KM) in the UNDP. Furthermore, the research question seeks an explanation of the causal relationship between KM processes in the CIAS unit and performance outcomes in the Green Energy Solutions Project. KM continues to inspire researchers and managers as knowledge is challenging to define and consequently, to manage. Previous literature has not focused or emphasized what are the implications of KM in internal projects related to renewable energy in the UN.
An analysis of market facilitation organizations and the actual scenario for renewable energy deployment sets the frame in which the UNDP ́s influence on national context takes place. The empirical findings are based on the triangulation of the following data gathered: ten semi-structured interviews conducted with CIAS unit staff members; my participant and researcher observations in the organization; UNDP internal reports, documents and Intranet; and a survey conducted by the CIAS unit regarding Green Energy client satisfaction and answered by the ICT managers in the COs. The study makes a contribution to the literature on KM processes in global and international organizations (IOs).
The performance outcomes of the GES project were analyzed from the perspective of current targets of the project: installation of PCMM in all COs. The analysis of data from the UNDP ́s KM strategy framework, confirmed the theoretical tendency of approaching knowledge management from a practical perspective. However, the findings highlight that changing the organizational culture and structure from objective to people-centered approach in a complex environment such as the UN system, might require more than efficient knowledge management tools. Knowledge sharing need to be institutionalized as a cross-practice exercise, which is concluded to be a challenging task within the settings of IOs. Nevertheless, that does not reject the positive causal relationship between efficient KM processes and the performance outcomes of the GES project.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture - Business and Development Studies, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages90
SupervisorsKristjan Jespersen