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Case Study by Seth Kahan

Written for Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs

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The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) established the AIDS Competence Programme (ACP) in February 2003 to develop the human capacity to respond to HIV/AIDS. Countries, districts, and cities are increasingly taking on the responsibility for confronting the growing threat of HIV/AIDS. The program seeks to provide them with a supportive structure for identifying their unique strengths and working together to achieve greater success.

The program is designed to include many members of society: people from corporations and municipal services as well as people from NGOs and people who live with HIV/AIDS. It enables them to work together to create effective interventions by identifying and drawing on each others’ strengths to bring about social transformation. According to an ACP report: “It is about appreciating and revealing local capacity to tackle a local problem. This process is universal; it applies equally to rich and poor cities, to low and high HIV prevalence communities.”

When Dr. Jean-Louis Lamboray, Principal Coordinator, was setting up the program, he called on Geoff Parcell to provide advice on how to make knowledge sharing work globally. After an initial visit, Parcell was transferred from British Petroleum (BP) to serve as Knowledge Management Advisor. Parcell says, “I had used KM in a business frame where it saves the company money. I hadn’t thought of it in the context where it was saving lives.”

In 2001 Geoff Parcell distinguished himself by authoring, along with Chris Collison, Learning to Fly: Practical Lessons From One of the World’s Leading Knowledge Companies (45). The book was a useful introduction to knowledge management based on the authors’ experience at British Petroleum. BP ( is one of the world’s largest energy businesses, made up of over 100,000 people working in 100 countries across six continents.

“Knowledge is not just captured or shared, it is also created, discovered, distilled, validated, transferred, adopted, adapted and applied. Knowledge is richer than data and information; it’s about familiarity gained from experience.” —Geoff Parcell and Chris Collison, Learning to Fly


  • Support to the establishment and operation of a facilitation team, whose members are able to appreciate existing human capacity to respond to HIV/AIDS. The purpose is to build AIDS competence countrywide through learning from local experience and transfer of lessons learned.
  • Experiential training in the self-assessment of AIDS competence for local communities, municipalities, NGOs, businesses, organizations of civil society, and of the public sector.
  • Support to the exchange of knowledge through “match-making” between those who have something to share and those who want to learn, and through the synthesis of knowledge generated from global exchanges on key topics.
  • Assistance in the use of eWorkspaces (eWs), a collaborative platform for exchange of experiences within and between countries, and to the People Connector (PCO), a “yellow pages” system of all people committed to AIDS competence and willing to share their knowledge. (Source: ACP, 2003)

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