A Knowledge Harvest is a meeting designed to capture lessons learned from a project or activity after it has been completed. A harvest meeting is intended to bring out the key knowledge acquired through the project or activity and capture it for reuse and for the benefit of future projects.
In the context of a collaborative improvement project, a Harvest Meeting provides the opportunity to consolidate and reflect on the key lessons learned by improvement teams and changes tested that were found to lead to improved outcomes.
Although it has some features in common with an After Action Review, a Knowledge Harvest takes longer, goes into greater depth, and expresses the learning in terms of detailed recommendations and advice for future activities and projects. By facilitating an in-depth dialogue with all the key actors involved in a project, knowledge can be identified that any one individual may be unaware of, but which the team as a whole knows.
Different organizations approach the design of a Knowledge Harvest differently, and there is no single formula for conducting a Knowledge Harvest. The guidance below is intended to help you plan a Knowledge Harvest to extract key lessons from your particular improvement effort.
Considerations in Preparing for a Knowledge Harvest
A Knowledge Harvest should be planned to take place at the end of a collaborative improvement activity as part of the overall implementation schedule for the project. It should be planned as a face-to-face meeting and not conducted by email or telephone. The meeting should be held as soon as possible after the project is completed—ideally within a few weeks. If you wait too long, memories fade.
The harvest meeting does not have to wait until the completion of the project. In some cases, it may be preferable to schedule several “mini-harvests” as discrete phases of the project are concluded or to gather learning on specific topics where the improvement project managers feel “enough” has been learned to merit harvesting of lessons to date.
For example, in Uganda, the USAID ASSIST team recently conducted a “mini-harvest” meeting with 22 teams working to improve post-natal care for HIV-exposed mother-baby pairs. The meeting focused on learning related to two improvement aims that most of the teams had already made good progress in achieving. The mini-harvest was conducted in conjunction with a learning session at which teams discussed how they would approach work on the other improvement aims going forward.
Other considerations for the scheduling of a Knowledge Harvest meeting are to allow time for preparatory work to consolidate and analyze results across all teams in advance of the harvest meeting and ensure that the date set does not conflict with other events that may draw key people away.