Multiple knowledges, what does it mean to us?
The IKM emergent programme is concerned with a number of issues but one of its central premises, and perhaps where it’s biggest added value resides, is the concept of multiple knowledges, and how to take them into account when developing IKM interventions.
On the first day of the annual IKM working groups’ meeting in Cambridge, working group 3 tried to unpack this core concept that will shape IKM Emergent work in the four-year period to come.
As a starting point, our group tried to make sense of signals we had sensed re: the concept of multiple knowledges, i.e. what we understood was the underlying idea behind and what it could mean for IKM Emergent’s work.
Random associations came to our mind: Power relations, power structures, multiple realities, world views i.e. between individuals, group knowledge, community of practice etc. Who is deciding what is knowledge or what is relevant knowledge?
Multiple knowledges, multiple worldviews, how to create space for them in development interventions and how to connect them?
Thanks to our ever inspired Valerie Brown, we continued our discussion based on a series of research activities in several hundreds of Western communities, which identified five different constructions of knowledge:
- Individual knowledge
- Local community knowledge
- Specialised knowledge
- Organisational knowledge (also related to political knowledge);
- Holistic knowledge
These constructs relate to learning styles and provide various systems of rating the relevance of knowledge sources.
From there we tried to identify key dimensions of knowledge which could influence one’s worldview (and as such would hint at the multiple knowledges we are concerned with):
- Gender (and its obvious two knowledges: male and female). We assumed that all other dimensions actually hold a greater variety of knowledges;
- Generation / age cohort;
- Religion / cosmovision (understood as dogmatic belief that really drives one’s vision, i.e. this may imply Marxism or other streams of thoughts erected as dogmas to follow);
- Social structure (relating to norms and values, e.g. Hofstede’s cultural differences of power distance, uncertainty-avoidance etc.);
- Organisational culture (the tacit culture of a given organized group of people);
- Functions (professional functions, providing a filter to use knowledge in a way or another);
We also parked different kinds of intelligence (emotional, mathematical) and ignorance as perhaps other angles of multiple knowledges. In the subsequent discussion with the larger group, others suggested to add:
- Systemic / system-wide knowledge
Each of these knowledges brings forth a discourse, a sense of roles/functions, specific constructions of reality and (very importantly) an evidence base by which it decides to qualify what is more important.
From there we evolved to defend an overall objective for IKM Emergent:
The programme aims at promoting inclusion of various worldviews in KM and learning activities. IKM Emergent should therefore help understand how to appreciate each knowledge, how to avoid the dominance of any of them, and from raising awareness on these knowledges, how to establish bridges (how to develop a common language) to be able to cooperate. Personally I would add here that we should use this understanding of multiple knowledges and dimensions of knowledge to facilitate joint identification, implementation and evaluation of development interventions.
And here is your golden week slum tip: multiple knowledges is all about encouraging the marginalised (whatever avenue they come from) to have a say in decisions and activities that concern their well-being in development interventions. Another anagram with multiple knowledges could have been: “nudge melt silo, kewl!” (only ending with the letter P and not knowing what to do with it ;).
This work from working group 3 has further implications on the work of the other two groups: it relates to the concept of translation that group 1 is exploring, and it relates to web 2.0 (most likely one of Group 3’s hobby horses) as in a technological set of bridge materials to connect actors and allow worldviews to be shared around.
A member from the other sub-group asked: are these dimensions a grid or a tag cloud? We replied: they are both, though at this stage rather a cloud that relates to our various identities to varying degrees. We are all concerned with gender, religion, function, organisational culture, but each of us with their personal quirky individual degree… What matters is that we recognise the common denominators and are ready to pay attention to them when we design, carry out and evaluate development interventions.
From the magnificent campus of Cambridge, chaos is in full swing, complexity displays, emergence is happening, convergence to follow?