First of all, I would like to thank all of you who took the time to respond to the one question. Thanks a lot! I will first summarise how the responses looked like and then connect them with something that is currently in vogue, complexity.
There was a total of 51 responses to the question: How important are these aspects in decentralised/participatory knowledge interventions? This is how the responses look when averaged.
As one would have expected, everything is kind of important (thus, the high ratings). This can be explained with the general perception that participation is important and contributes to the sustainability of development interventions/projects. What struck me when I looked at the results is that the order in which their perceived importance is rated (most important to least) seems to correspond with what is feasible in a knowledge intervention.
1. Traditionally, participation has been most relevant at the implementation stage of a project because at this stage there is direct contact with beneficiaries.
2. Indigenous knowledge and participatory methods made us aware (in case we were not already) of the value of local knowledge and the benefits it can bring to share/exchange it.
3. If the local knowledge is being exchanged than it also seems feasible to engage knowledge holders in the design of the intervention.
4. Ownership is slightly less feasible but still a very important aim. However, it is debatable what ownership actually means in this context and what people thought it would mean for the purpose of this question.
5. The same counts for accountability. Who would the local community be accountable to? There is more then one scenario. If they allocate the funding than surely they would be expected to be accountable towards the funder. However, the community leaders (chosen in whatever way – see comment on democratic chosen leaders) would have to always be accountable to all other stakeholders including their peers.
6. Now we get to what I found really interesting. The apparent difference between the last two and all the others. Local community allocates the funds and initiates the process seems to be less important than the other aspects. It gets clear in the average above but gets even clearer when you have a look at the table below. Those two categories are the only ones who did not receive the most votes in the “very important” category. Coincidentally, in my mind they are the most difficult ones to implement. The funds of a project could only ever be partially allocated by the local community if the process is not initiated by them. Funding would have been secured by someone else and, thus, there would be an overhead and accountability to donors would rest on whoever secured the funding and manages the overhead.
This makes me think about: how far does participation actually go? Who is letting who participate in who’s development? And also, is it a mere coincidence that there seems to be an overlap between perceived importance and my perceived feasibility? Does this tell us something important about who we construct knowledge interventions in our own mind? Or is my personal feel for feasibility unjustified?
It is interesting how some of the comments relate to this. With the ideas of one commentator: There seem to 5 top voted aspects s/he would call key factors for success of decentralised knowledge interventions. Also, what I touch on with regard to the “partially allocation of funding by the local community” is also hinted at by one of the commentators who states that her/his organisations uses a shared leadership model. It would be interesting to see how that works out and if it this includes decisions over funding.
However, what stood out in the comments was “context”. How are things defined by the local community? What perceptions are there? etc. The way in which many commentators recently try to understand context is by discussing complexity. It is easy to subscribe to the statement: development stuff is complex stuff. However, who would not. Nonetheless, complexity science is more than that. It tries to make sense of what is sometimes called chaos or mess. This I find generally very interesting because it helps us to explore how local knowledge is contextualised, especially when we do not consider it as a thing but as a process. In participation we inherently ask ourselves that question? How are processes and knowledge socially constructed and who influences outputs and outcomes in what way. I think that this should lead us to question if allocation of funds and initiation of process are really not as important as participation of beneficiaries and local communities at the implementation stage!?
There are plenty of sources to get into complexity science and you are welcome to explore these (Online complexity course, IKM Emergent on complexity, ODI on complexity, Owen Barder, etc.). However, please remember that this is a mere re-emergence of discussions and considerations that have preceded complexity science by decades, if not centuries. Thus, also search the web for social structure (and how it comes about) and you will find plenty of insights that hint in the same direction (just without the “scientific” spin).
In the following I will copy the raw data in case anyone wants to make up their own mind about the responses:
Here are the 9 comments:
- all this is context dependent though
- Very important: Local community perceives knowledge as critical resource for reaching an aspiration, or solving a difficult problem.
- As one would conclude from the difference in the responses to the questions, our observations have been that availability of funding and/or unfamiliarity with the process of participatory intervention do not necessarily translate to lack of interest, and that if there is interest/funding available, that participatory intervention that adheres to the 5 issues identified by this informant as being important-very important is a key recipe for success. That said, all stakeholders need to be present and in a ‘clinical’ context, that means the End Users of the Intervention, the Knowledge Providers of the intervention, and the Knowledge Producers who have contributed to the evidence-base for the intervention, Knowledge Producers who are familiar with the ppoertfolio of evidence-based frameworks and tools for the intervention and for its sustainability through ensuring adaptive behaviour change in support of any innovation. All said, the questions posed point to perhaps the most important recipe for success which is a process in support of the social learning continuum of engage, empower, take ownership, change their organization, and emerge as an entity that can undertake other such initiatives (sustainability) but engage other discipline-related organizations to do the same (scalability).
- Local leadership is democratic
- How are you defining community? Accountable to who? Difference between important and desirable.
- While I do believe these are all important or very important in most contexts, there may be cases when interventions are intiated by the academic community and only bring in community later on and that can be okay too. It’s really a case by case situation.
- Every process must be contextualized to meet the best of local content
- These questions make me think about the methods & principles of CPBR (Community Based Participatory Research)
- Lest disconnects are perceived, the adaptive capacity development model used by my network is a shared leadership model involving the ‘Owners’ and the ‘Funders’.