Serafin D. Talisayon
Community and Corporate Learning for Innovation (CCLFI), The Philippines
Knowledge for development: start with the right framework
About 70% of Gross World Product is now being created from knowledge; the rest is from extraction or growing and processing of natural resources. A related fact is the long-term trend discernible even before World War II: the increasing share of the services sector – which is most knowledge-intensive – in national GDPs. Knowledge has already been increasingly fuelling economic growth worldwide. What then do we mean by ‘knowledge for development’? Let us look at some evidence. In the Philippines, we studied over 900+ anti-poverty projects. We selected ten best practices and asked the question: what were their success ingredients? Our findings surprised us: provision of external funding by itself is not the answer. Provision or sharing of knowledge or technology is not the answer.
The common success ingredient is that the projects leveraged on existing intangible assets that local communities already have. Intangible assets include: human capital among men and women, social capital e.g. working relationships, cultural capital or practices and beliefs favourable to the project, supportive relationships with outside institutions, access to local natural resources, etc. We discovered a new way of understanding why the famous Grameen model worked well. We realized that many so-called ‘poor’ communities are wealthy in terms of intangible assets. The label ‘poor’ came from outsiders – including development workers like myself – outsiders who only see and count money, land, infrastructure, equipment and other tangible assets. After a decade as national chair of the UNDP Small Grants Programme I led a team to study the success factors in the best ten among 100+ community-based sustainable development projects UNDP had funded. We asked the best-practitioners the question: what is ‘success’ to you? We were again surprised. Here is one answer: ‘Success is not in cleaning up litter and garbage. Success is when community members realize and learn, and thus stop throwing litter and garbage.’
To them, success is not about sustainable development indicators; success is an internal change among the people. Knowledge for development should start with self-examination of mind-sets and frameworks among development workers.
societies should promote, facilitate and support the way each country effectively deals with knowledge for development and its deployment in all sectors like health, education, infrastructure, trade, development and social well-being. My vision of the Agenda Knowledge for Development is to bring groups, management, academics, development professionals and communities together to share innovative knowledge management for development practices, tools, solutions, ideas, visions, strategies, evaluations, and to exchange best practices and lessons learned to meet development challenges.