IKM Working Paper: Bridging knowledge divides

The fourth IKM Working Paper Learning networks for bridging development divides by Laxmi Prasad Pant in now online. The study identifies and characterizes approaches and initiatives to bridging a complex array of knowledge divides in international development, specifically the differences in learning and innovation arising from multiple realities and multiple knowledge of a myriad of stakeholders, from multi-lateral and bi-lateral organizations to diaspora communities, civil society organizations (CSOs), and destitute local communities.

Systems approaches, specifically innovation systems thinking, are identified as a potential candidate among a basket of choices to address the complexity of knowledge divides. Based on a review of the relevant literature, a convergence model of social innovation and entrepreneurship (SI&E) has been developed and provisionally tested using the evidence from the contemporary blossoming (or in some cases mushrooming) of the practices of forming epistemic communities, communities of practice, communities of interest, learning communities, learning alliances and learning networks, both globally as well as locally. These are various terminologies for seemingly similar processes of learning across conventional boundaries, although finer differences are possible between these communities.

Recognizing semantic ambiguity of the use of the terms, this paper posits the concept of learning networks, as a corollary to the concept of learning organizations, is inclusive of all kinds of learning communities in international development. There is a need for further research on stakeholder engagement in learning networks as a potential
initiative to bridge knowledge divides, specifically using the convergence model of SI&E as a conceptual framework. This framework would be useful to understand processes of social innovation and entrepreneurship, from local to global levels.

An effective learning network should entail a holistic perspective on the convergence of actor structures, resources, processes and values, not just integrating the ways of knowing and addressing the nature of being. In other words, this study argues that a higher order goal of value convergence is necessary to bridge divides arising from multiple realities and multiple knowledge systems. Subsequently, this study develops principles of managing learning networks, with a focus on individual actors, and outlines a few research questions by way of illustration.

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