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The extent and effectiveness of knowledge management in Australian community service organisations

Trevor Downes (Independent Business Consultant and Researcher)
Teresa Marchant (Department of Employment Relations and Human Resources, Griffith Universtiy, Gold Coast, Australia)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 8 February 2016




The purpose of this study is to evaluate the extent and effectiveness of knowledge management (KM) in community service organisations (CSOs) in Australia. CSOs are focussed on support, care and encouragement, thereby improving the quality of life of many in the community. This study contributes to a wider acceptance and management of knowledge, from a national perspective, and assists CSOs to improve practice.


KM theory and practice is expanded through a national online survey from 89 Australian CSOs, represented by 538 employees. CSOs, as a subset of not-for-profit organisations, were selected because they contribute significantly to the economy. Existing research generally relies on case studies, offering scope for wider quantitative research to address the gap.


The extent and effectiveness of KM were moderate. KM was more extensive in CSOs with a formal KM policy. Face-to-face exchange of knowledge was the major transfer method. Recognition or other incentives are needed to encourage learning and disseminating new ideas.

Research limitations/implications

Other CSOs and other countries could be included, along with very small CSOs.

Practical implications

Shortfalls in practice were discovered. Recommendations should improve client service by enhancing the appropriateness, consistency, quality and timely delivery of assistance. This will aid CSO sustainability by maximising limited resources. The challenge is to harness informal learning for organisation-wide learning and for hard outcomes, such as reducing costs and competing for government funding.


A synthesised large-scale survey integrates more elements of KM practice. Existing KM ideas are combined in new ways, applied in a fresh context, indicating elements of KM that are more significant in not-for-profit CSOs.



Downes, T. and Marchant, T. (2016), "The extent and effectiveness of knowledge management in Australian community service organisations", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 49-68.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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