Monday, December 07, 2009

Peer Assist: What is local knowledge and how can we tap into it?

One of the areas we focused on during the recent KM4Dev meeting in Brussels (within the Agriculture Huddle) was the need to understand "how do we get local knowledge and issues back from communities (farmers) to the organizations actually working on the issues?"

To address this issue, we decided to do a Peer Assist. Here are the outcomes of the three questions we addressed.

1. What is local knowledge?

The grouped defined local knowledge as: "Knowledge applied and proven to have worked."

The problem of capturing local knowledge is at different levels and even if knowledge is captured, how can we make sure it goes to the right audience?

2. So, what do we need to have in place to facilitate the flow?
  • We need individuals/institutions/networks who know who has what knowledge – sort of information intermediaries - to help with capturing
  • Promote/teach the information mediaries about KS tools - process not just the technology
  • Improve communication skills at different levels
  • There is limited sharing/scaling up of best practices and this needs to be addressed
  • Make research more demand driven by using some participatory methods such as the example of ICARDA's farmer's conference
  • Install incentives to encourage learning and sharing of experiences
  • Individuals need to understand that they need to look for what has been done before/while designing/doing programmes/projects - don't reinvent the wheel!
  • Regional/National forums for sharing experiences – networking is extremely important and needs to be facilitated/improved.
  • We are less willing to tell people what didn’t work - we need to change that.
3. Having identified the above possible solutions, what can donor, development and research organizations do?
  • Donor agencies need to facilitate communication between other donors/projects.
  • Donor agenda is changing fast hence there is lack of continuity although donors don’t work in vacuum and they work in collaboration with the national policy and thus it is a double edged sword.
  • All organizations working a country X need to work together with each other.
  • Capacity building needs to take place also at government level to recognise KS as an important issue
  • Bring all stakeholders into a network so that there is regular communication between them.
  • Organizations such as FAO need to make sure knowledge sharing becomes important part of the national policies that it helps develop at country level
  • Obstacles to up/out scaling best practises – not being networked
  • Add learning agenda into all the technical components of projects
Finally, the overarching (or underlying) issue in all of this is what's in it for me? What are the incentives and disincentives for sharing local knowledge? Here are some of the ideas that participants came up with:
  • Farmers have knowledge and need recognition
  • Capacity building as an incentive to do the job better
  • Getting acknowledgement for work, career path (although this might encourage competition)
  • Problems with the way science is set up - publishing copyright is still an issue.
  • Power relations – people do participatory events in communities but not always bring the summary back
  • Information overload and our resistance to new knowledge needs to be addressed
  • Build trust – important social skill when working with farmers needs to be developed
The key ideas were captured by Nancy...

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