1 Connecting knowledges
Approaches from IKM1
IKM1 has been working on the conception of multiple knowledges in the context of the disconnection between policy, practice and academic research in the development sector. One part of this has involved using the techniques of scientometrics to map this disconnection, and in particular the position of academic development journals within this. Another strand has involved a developing series of workshops, undertaken with Hivos, to discuss, map and develop understanding of the current situation with groups of researchers and practitioners.
One aspect of using multiple knowledges in practice is the importance of the bridges – human intermediaries, organisational infomediaries and technical - which need to exist if gaps between knowledges are to be crossed. Most significant in this regard is the idea of traducture – translation across barriers of power and status as well as of language.
Problems with research/policy or research practice links had already been well documented before IKM came into being. However, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the entire structure of research 'for development' is seriously dysfunctional. Key issues include:
1. The inappropriateness of the ‘knowledge as truth’ paradigm for trans-disciplinary and cross boundary work with its inevitable contradictions and paradox.
2. The lack of openness and support for new paradigms, enabled in part by informational developments, which are based on finding new value through connecting existing knowledge sets rather than the pursuit of 'new knowledge' within disciplinary boundaries.
3. Research frameworks which see unpredictability and emergence as problems rather than as the inevitable and welcome products of genuine participatory and iterative exploration. Open enquiry, genuine interaction with research stakeholders and, again, issues that emerge from the research process all demand more open frameworks for the planning and conducting of research than the current rigid, risk adverse norms based on the desirability of predictable outcomes.
4. The institutional structure of 'applied research' which is overwhelmingly organised within academic environments, with the incentives and quality control of academic life, is in no sense accountable to the people to/for whom the research is applied. This structure almost guarantees the weakness of any 'for development' component in the selection, methodology and communication of most 'for development' research.
5. The dominance of neo-liberal ideology with regard to the monetization of knowledge and the non-recognition of other values.
6. Research ‘for development’ is primarily based on one sort of knowledge namely academic knowledge which is generally not receptive or inclusive of other types of knowledge or other realities.
Proposed outline for IKM 2
IKM2 would aim to work in this area by creating bridges between different sorts of knowledge – and working with others who are doing this – and reforming the various silos. As part of this, we would aim to deepen the analysis: - Working with development journals to analyze their current practice - Working with research councils to consider the nature of ‘for development’ research
2 IKM practice in development organisations
Approaches from IKM1
Some of the work of IKM1 has been looking at the information and knowledge practice of development organisations: - an overview of different KM strategies and a meta-analysis - the implications of multiple knowledges for organisations - ongoing work on evaluation of knowledge and knowledge management - how information being generated by participatory processes is being used by international non-governmental organisations (iNGOs)
In IKM1, a project which is currently under development, is looking at the implications of the general findings of IKM1 for practice in development organisations, in cooperation with CARE International.
Proposed outline for IKM2
It is proposed that IKM2’s work on practice in development organisations will extend and build on the research already undertaken. It will consider:
- Implications of emergence for organisational practice There are many approaches looking at how to add the perspective of complexity and emergence to development and the implications of this for practice, particularly for planning and evaluation. Many such approaches are trying to ‘embrace’ or ‘harness’ complexity and emergence in a way which tries to maintain the status quo in terms of liner planning and control-oriented approaches. IKM2 will look for ways, with others, in which taking account of complexity and emergence can be part of innovative approaches to development planning and evaluation.
- Evaluation of the role of knowledge IKM1 has undertaken a considerable amount of research on the thorny and complex challenge of evaluation of knowledge and knowledge management. This research is currently ongoing and has been very much influenced by the innovative evaluation of the programme itself. This will remain an area requiring considerable attention, given the need to collect and document experiences and exchange ideas on developing new approaches.
- Common efforts to build a development knowledge system Attention needs to be directed at how development organisations work together to develop a development knowledge system. At the moment, this is happening in a very haphazard way: there are no standards and few efforts to work together at interorganisational level. The development knowledge system is developing as an spontaneous information ecology but often in a way which has intrinsic paradoxes which conflict with the developmental purpose. IKM2 will bring representatives of organisations together to discuss these issues with a view to taking a more coordinated approach. One aspect of this is the fact that the knowledge from practice is the ‘neglected child’ in development and is not being properly documented. Although there are increasing efforts to preserve the documentary record in repositories, this is very piecemeal.
- Good practice in making information available to beneficiaries Development organisations have a responsibility, which they themselves recognise, to be accountable to their beneficiaries in the South. However, research undertaken by Kirimi and Wakwabubi (2009) in Kenya lifts the edge of the veil surrounding this issue. Development organisations working in specific countries make very little effort to make information about their activities available to their beneficiaries in a systematic way or in a suitable language.
To support this work, IKM2 will aim to encourage a group of organisations to become members of IKM is some way. The research agenda for IKM practice will be worked out with these organisations collaboratively. This is a reflection of the fact that although organisations often support practice-related research to support their own internal processes, there is little effort to decide on an agenda for examining key issues of common interest.
3 Local content, local knowledge
Approaches from IKM1
IKM has supported a range of work, including work with local communities, use of new media and workshops, to demonstrate the importance of local content, local knowledge to development. Work to date has been influenced by the concept map in Figure 2.
Proposed outline for IKM2
- Exploring the hidden realities of local knowledge and local content - Documenting efforts to link local knowledges with other knowledges, such as organisational knowledge - Developing common guidelines for how development organisations should interact with local knowledge - Exploring the role of local knowledge in process of citizen engagement and civic driven change
4 Creation and adaption of artefacts
Research and interaction around information artefacts has been an integral part of IKM1 but the forming and articulation of conclusions from this work has been slow. Equally, although we have supported some thought and experimentation in the area, the development of a truly alternative practice remains a vision for the future. IKM2 would begin to identify and work to tackle:
Non-awareness of a problem: the notion that information have intrinsic characteristics (embedded or embodied) which may militate against or contribute to a developmental purpose is largely missing within the sector. Leaving aside the somewhat controversial history of ICTD, IKM would argue that the application of ICT by development organisations to the internal workings of the sector has worked to increase both information and power divides within the sector. In a nutshell, the investment of hundreds of millions in the IT systems of development organisations over the last 20 years has been an investment in underdevelopment. Given that officially this 'problem' does not exist, there is no one in most development organisations with responsibility for it or even willing to engage in discussions about it. An strategy base on advocacy at senior management level and support for guerrilla initiatives by positive deviants is needed to get these issues onto the agenda.
That still leaves the question of how to develop meaningful alternatives very open. IKM has supported some enquiry into traditional artefacts like articles and summaries and the extent to which they can or do cross 'community boundaries'. It has also invested extensively in the discussion and production of the local production of information artefacts – in various ways, not just through the local content programme. It has done work around new ICT concepts, work which at last is finding more external interest as it is developed in the context of ideas of linked data and emerging semantic technologies. However, at both a conceptual and human level the connections between these various initiatives are proving hard to develop. The 'local content' work concentrates on the local, perhaps neither realising or valuing its potential to shape wider development language. Even the 'progressive' wing of the ICT avant garde, by contrast, have difficulty in recognising the 'local' in what they see as global communications tools. The excitement of rapid and continuous change can also mask a lack of solid preparatory work as software developers, artists, cognitive psychologists and information designers seem to communicate little with each other, still less with innovators from the development sector. Hardly anywhere, and certainly not in the mainstream, is there evidence of the notion that virtual reality may embody as much cultural diversity in its thought and expression as physical reality, although intuitively IKM would believe it inevitably will.
There is still much planned under these lines of work for the rest of IKM1. The aim is to achieve by the end of the programme. The core argument, properly presented and evidenced as to why this is an important area of attention and one that can feed into IKM2's continuing advocacy. At least a better plan for the development of this space – in particular its cross disciplinary and cross/ multi cultural components – than we had at the beginning of IKM1. This plan would guide continuing work in this area in IKM 2.
On a more practical level the trialling of new architecture, tools and protocols as part of IKM2's catalysing contribution to the explicit and collaborative construction of global development knowledge ecology.