When the World Bank launched its World Development Report, Knowledge for Development, in 1998, its premise was that the knowledge needed to achieve development existed and that the challenge was to disseminate and apply it. Whilst there is always more work to be done in applying existing knowledge, the SDGs and the Agenda Knowledge for Development both envisage realities which do not yet exist. They imply the need for new relationships, new forms of engagement and the creation of new knowledges. These may benefit from coordinated encouragement but cannot be established by centralised dictat. They will be formed by the purposeful interactions of many institutions and people, largely autonomous in their direction. These will inevitably be iterative and emergent processes and need to be managed as such. The aim of creating lasting value from multiple knowledges with different roots and sources poses new challenges. Contestation and dispute are intrinsic to knowledge production and use. One challenge is to uncover commonalities whilst steering dispute in knowledge generative directions. It cannot be the case that anything goes or that knowledges and alternative facts can be selected to suit pre-conceived prejudices. Underlying values and intent need to be explicit.
Knowledge hierarchies of many sorts have been and remain a barrier to mobilizing knowledge for development. However, different knowledges are not all equal: each has its own internal logic, its appropriate fields of application. There is a need for clarity on how and why something is held to be knowledge to create the basis for the kind of dialogues that will be necessary to agree on the best mix of or approaches to knowledges in any situation. Finally, the open, accessible, distributed knowledge ecologies which are envisaged will not emerge by chance. They will require investment in the nuts and bolts of information management, in co-ordination and in the development and maintenance of technical standards, including vocabularies which are open to common usage as well as to the adepts of expert systems.