Knowledge networking has started to be recognized as a valuable method for capacity development. If applied well it can have advantages of cost, scale and speed over more conventional methods such as training and expert advice.
In this chapter Geoff Parcell helps us understand three key elements of knowl- edge networking: the community of people participating, the knowledge topic or focus and the organizing processes used. These are illustrated with concrete appli- cations in AIDS response networks, SARS research and organic farming. He shows that application of knowledge networking techniques can be beneficial for capacity- development results. This requires practitioners to shift an understanding of their own role away from the conventional expert model.
Learning Together: Knowledge Networks in Capacity Development Initiatives
Overview of topic
Learning together is essential for any capacity development effort that goes beyond the individual and tries to influence performance of a team, an organization, a group of organizations or even a sector. Knowledge networking can play a key role in such joint learning. In fact it becomes essential in a fast changing, fast moving world. The knowledge networking we are referring to here is primarily about the human collaboration process, rather than the computer networking that underpins and enhances it. Knowledge networking is largely common sense yet, incredibly, not common practice.
Why is this the case? There are a number of reasons - we are too busy, too proud to learn, tied to hierarchy and formal conceptions of organization, or with outdated ideas on knowledge as power and competition for resources. So we have
226 Capacity development in practice - Working with Connections
lots of excuses. However, should someone go hungry or become sick because they do not have access to knowledge that already exists?
In this chapter we will look at knowledge networking as a technique for capacity development. We will examine how people connect and collaborate to exchange and develop knowledge and the processes required to enable knowledge to flow and grow. We will further discuss some concrete examples that illustrate successful knowledge networking practices. We will then distil strengths and possibilities that knowledge networking has to offer to those involved in capacity development as well as challenges that one may need to deal with.
The world is changing rapidly and as we will see in this chapter there is much to be gained from networking. This is true for the individuals that are engaged in networking, for their organizations, and especially for people who seek to influ- ence processes and capacities at a larger scale.
In today's highly connected world, the need to go to a wise man or sage, dial up an expert, or to hire a consultant, either to find knowledge or address an insurmount- able problem, has diminished. Instead we are learning to trust in the...