Original Research

Using organisational memory in evaluations

Madri S. Jansen van Rensburg
African Evaluation Journal | Vol 2, No 1 | a75 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aej.v2i1.75 | © 2014 Madri S. Jansen van Rensburg | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 April 2014 | Published: 18 December 2014

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Madri S. Jansen van Rensburg, Resilience Analysis Consulting, South Africa

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This article uses the case of a regional intermediary organisation to investigate organisational memory (OM) and its contribution to knowledge management and activities in evaluations. Understanding of, and accessing OM is critical for participatory evaluations. The aim of the article is to reflect on the OM of a non-governmental organisation (NGO) and what implicationsthe structural changes in OM over the organisation’s life cycle have for evaluators. It further aims to advocate an awareness of OM and explains how evaluators can access and utilise it more effectively. Evaluators need to have an understanding of OM, and to take more responsibility for disseminating results to enhance it. This case study reflects on a retrospective case example of a regional NGO. The report reflects the development and structure of the life cycle of the organisation. The data collection included in-depth interviews with staff members and other key stakeholders, engagement with beneficiary organisations and donors, and analyses of documents, electronic files and audio-visual material. Since OM survives after the demise of an organisation, and is accessible through directories, it is important for the evaluator to include historical information. Specific implications for evaluators include the ability to access OM through directories and networks of the organisation. As evaluators hold OM of all the organisations they have engaged with, they also have a responsibility to share knowledge. The key findings of this study illustrate the importance of accessing the memory and historical information of the organisation. Understanding OM enhances the in-depth comprehension of the activity, project or programme under investigation, and the collective knowledge generated as a result of it.


Knowledge management, learning, non-government organisations, organisational memory, institutional memory, organisational metamemory, temporal change in organisational memory


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