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between knowledge management and related fields’ by acting as a ‘broad church’ (Ferguson and Cummings 2005, unpublished).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 To quote from one of the unpublished background documents on reasons for starting the journal: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.

From the editor’s desk

On 22 September 2011, I took part in a panel ”From the Editor’s desk”, convened by Wendy Harcourt and Kees Biekart at the EADI/DSA General Conference in York, UK. The session was conducted as an open discussion among 6 journal editors on the new publishing arrangements with the coming of the digital age among development journals looking at both the opportunities and the current squeeze for resources.

There were 6 editors who took part in the exchange, five of whom are journal editors:
Wendy Harcourt – Development
Kees Biekart – Development and Change
Brian Pratt – Development in Practice
Caroline Sweetman – Gender and Development
Robert Cornford – Oxfam Books
me – Knowledge Management for Development Journal (KM4D Journal)

When it was my turn to talk, I introduced the KM4D Journal and gave some background on how the journal has developed. It is the youngest journal of them all – then in its 7th volume – and it has, unusually, gone from being an Open Journal System journal to one published by the commercial publisher, Taylor and Francis.

After introducing the journal, I very briefly presented some research on development journals that I’ve been doing with Iina Hellsten of the VU University. Iina and I are doing a scientometric analysis of top development journals. As part of this, I presented a few slides showing our preliminary results in which we had considered the institutional and country location of authors of three development journals, based on a sub-set of articles concerned with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for the years 2005-2008: namely World Development, the Journal of Development Studies and Development and Change.

This first slide reviews the institutional affiliations of authors. It shows (and I hope you can read it) that these journals are dominated by Northern institutions, both universities and international organisations such as the World Bank and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Of the institutions listed here, only one, namely the University of Delhi, could be described as a Southern institution.

Our next slide is concerned with the location of the authors in terms of country. Here, you can see the dominance of authors located in the North, and particularly the USA (green) and the UK (blue). This dominance becomes even clearer when we look at the third and final slide in which the authors for World Development are divided between the developed and developing world.

These slides show a reality of development journals being dominated by Northern interests and authors. As I then concluded, this picture makes me doubt the role of development journals as being developmental.

Not for the first time when I’ve presented these results, I received some angry reactions. One participant argued that this was not a problem because authors in the South have their own journals and didn’t need access to the journals in my study. Another argued that although most of the authors are located in the North, they may well be Southerners, and that this undermined my argument. And that my approach was patronising to Southern academics.

As you can imagine, I was getting very worried and upset at this point, wondering if I was indeed chasing an irrelevant red herring…

But then, fortunately for me, Olivier Sagna of CODESRIA was in the audience. He argued that the difficulty of publishing in international journals was perceived as a huge problem by many African academics. He was also of the opinion that the fact that some of the authors were Southerners based in the North did not change the overall impression of bias. He noted that the brilliance of some Southern scholars was not recognised until they caught international attention by attaining senior positions in the North. When this happened, they found it easy to publish in international journals but before this, they had been just as good but had not been recognised.

Please see the full report of the panel, written by Wendy Harcourt.