Journal update 1: KM4D and innovation systems

The May issue of the Knowledge Management for Development Journal was on the subject of Beyond the conventional boundaries of knowledge management: navigating the emergent pathways of learning and innovation for international development with Guest Editors, Laurens Klerkx, Laxmi Prasad Pant and Cees Leeuwis. It comprises 6 articles and one community note:

Knowledge management for pro-poor innovation: the Papa Andina case
Douglas Horton, Graham Thiele, Rolando Oros, Jorge Andrade-Piedra, Claudio Velasco, André Devaux
Development knowledge ecology: metaphors and meanings
Sarah Cummings, Mike Powell, Jaap Pels

One of the objectives of the journal when it was started in 2005 was ‘facilitating cross-fertilization between knowledge management and related fields’ by acting as a ‘broad church’ (Ferguson and Cummings 2005, unpublished). Indeed, one of the objectives was to bring the approaches of innovation management/systems for development (IM4Dev) and knowledge management for development (KM4D) closer together so that they could better inform each other although, in the language that we had available to us in 2005, we called this agricultural knowledge systems rather than IM4Dev or innovation systems. To quote from one of the unpublished background documents on reasons for starting the journal:

It will aim to facilitate cross-fertilization between knowledge management and related fields: for example information management, but also with other development-related approaches: agricultural knowledge systems, soft systems research, and other relevant ‘traditions’.

The rationale for bringing these two approaches closer together was that we thought at the time, intuitively, that KM4D could benefit from the insights of an approach which was grounded in development and which we had also identified as home-grown knowledge management. It is also fascinating to read in the Editorial how the different phases in IM4Dev correspond with the different generations of KM4D and that the Guest Editors consider that the approaches are complementary:

As becomes clear from the several articles, the perspectives of KM4D and IM4Dev do not seem that far apart, and have arrived for example at a similar understanding of the importance and influence of the institutional context for learning and innovation. They are complementary, and could benefit from further integration. Given their explicit focus on knowledge management, KM4D perspectives can help better understand the knowledge sharing and learning process that is crucial to innovation, and which underlies many of the other functions crucial to innovation such as lobbying, and the creation of an enabling environment. IM4Dev perspectives, with their attention to other resources than knowledge needed to feed the innovation process and create an enabling environment, broaden the view on the settings in which knowledge management aims to make a contribution.

One of the advantages of the IM4Dev approach is that it is focused outside organisations while one of the limitations of KM4D has been that, because it comes originally from the private sector, it was originally focused on knowledge inside organisations. Indeed, one of the original criticisms of knowledge-based aid from Kenneth King (2000, cited in Knowledge management: development strategy or business strategy? in 2001, p. 163) was:

The agencies have not started with the dramatic knowledge deficits of the South, nor with the key question of how knowledge management could assist knowledge development in the South. A continuation along their current trajectory will arguably be counter-productive; it will make agencies more certain of what they themselves have learnt, and more enthusiastic that others should share their insights, once they have been systematised.

IM4Dev, and the approaches it encompasses will help us to counteract this tendency which is still visible 11 years later.

PS Please note that I’m consciously using KM4D for the field, to differentiate it from the all important, and very much related KM4Dev community.


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