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Building subject-matter expertise and then sharing it within the community
November 13, 2017

Group of people greeting eachother
Courtesy of USAID.

“Today knowledge is not power, but sharing knowledge is.” – Business.com

In starting a nonprofit organisation 19 years ago, I realised that ignorance is not bliss and that knowledge is not knowledge unless someone knows about it. I faced the grave challenge of building up my expertise so that all the stakeholders would take me seriously and sit up and listen to the plight I was highlighting. Today, with more than 26,000 people’s lives impacted and many communities changed, I am able to quantify and report factually that knowledge has value and must be shared.

The question is really: Do you have something to say, and if so who needs to hear the message?

Knowledge and the dissemination thereof, as with any commodity, are all about the customer. We are the initial customer seeking the knowledge to build up our expertise. We then in turn identify the community or audience we believe needs the product — in this case, our expert knowledge.

Developing expertise takes time. Estimates usually range from seven years to 10,000 hours. Smart people from various sectors have authored books that guide us in how to effectively build our expertise.

Josh Kaufman and Tim Ferriss agree that the way to start is by deconstructing the skill and spending 20 hours of deliberate practice learning the most essential aspects of a topic or industry through rapid skill acquisition.

Robert Greene’s valuable Methods of Mastery guides you to:

  1. Discover Your Calling: The Life’s Task.
  2. Embark on the Ideal Apprenticeship: After your formal education, you enter the most critical phase in your life – a second, practical education known as the apprenticeship. In the process you will master the necessary skills, discipline your mind, and transform yourself into an independent thinker.
  3. Absorb the Master’s Power: The Mentor Dynamic. Without any guidance, you can waste valuable years trying to gain knowledge and practice from various sources.

Dorothy Leonard, professor of business administration emerita at Harvard Business School and author of “Critical Knowledge Transfer,” shares nuggets:

  • Identify the best experts.
  • Assess the gap between you and them.
  • Study on your own.
  • Persuade experts to share.
  • Learn to pull knowledge. You need to become some combination of a bird of prey and a sponge – eagle-eyed for opportunities to learn and avid to absorb.
  • Add visible value as soon as possible.

“Fake it until you make it” won’t work when you take the leap to share and step out as an authority in your chosen field. “You cannot waltz into a community and fix the world … no matter how well you can dance.” – Melinda Jurd, a speech pathology student speaking on community engagement.

How do we engage our community with the knowledge and expertise learnt?

It is good to define your audience. Make sure you know who you’re serving with your new expertise. Having clarity on this makes everything else easier.

Build and launch the product or service you wish to offer. Once you have a growing audience, it’s time to get to work building a product or service so you can start making money.

Continue growing your network. As your audience grows and you start to make money, it’ll be important to continue making inroads in your industry. Continue building relationships with other experts, teachers, and well-known people in your industry. They’ll start to look at you as a friend and fellow expert, which will be incredibly valuable in the future.

Spread your net wide to ensure your message is heard by as many people as possible.
Communicate via: word of mouth, events, email and websites, social networking, newsletters, leaflets, and consultations.

  1. Write – A blog is the best way to organize your thoughts into one space and build a showcase of your knowledge. Start with one post a week.
  2. Speak – Offer yourself as an expert to speak at local industry events, chapter meetings and networking meetings. By sharing your knowledge, you’ll refine your speaking skills, become more comfortable in front of groups, and position yourself as the expert.
  3. Social Media – Social platforms aren’t going anywhere; they are just going to evolve. Gary Vaynerchuk has great videos and books to help.
  4. Consult – Build your brand, client list and portfolio and make a little extra money by working freelance. In the beginning, work at a discounted rate or free so you can perfect your process and learn valuable lessons without huge consequences, all while keeping your day job.

Influencer is the final step we wish to achieve and requires one basic element: relevance. An influencer has the ability to affect an opinion and decision.

Interested in taking the next step with your business? Check out our #YALIEntrepreneurs page.

Betsy Ings is the founder and MD of Tradelane Training & Project Management and Siyaloba Training Academy. Tradelane’s vision is to make a sustainable impact on the economy by promoting growth of small enterprises, youth and women entrepreneurs. She finds solutions through their 3-enabler approach – knowledge and skills through training, mentoring/coaching through individual, peer/group sessions and financial linkages through partnerships. Betsy is an internationally accredited programme provider/facilitator to various United Nations organisations. Her YALI involvement includes being a mentor on the Mandela Washington Fellowship since 2016, meeting talented leaders on the African continent.

The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government. YALI Voices is a series of podcasts, videos and blog posts contributed by members of the YALI Network.

Betsy posing for a photo