How do we support knowledge sharing and learning?



Recently AEC member Catherine Borgman-Arboleda was involved with leading the design and implementation of a multi-country participatory monitoring and learning process for groups working on issues of women’s empowerment. These are a few key take-aways from the experience:

 *Timelines need to come from the pace, rhythms, and priorities on the ground. This does not lessen the ability to be accountable, but instead requires a process to develop a common understanding of what it means to be accountable, and to whom.

*The building of ownership is painstaking. It requires a process that allows people’s innate creativity, and ability to think critically, to rise to the challenge, and be the driving forces.   This letting go requires a significant amount of programmatic flexibility and willingness to sit back, re-think about what constitutes knowledge, watch, and trust.

*Reflective pauses, and turning the mirror on ourselves and our process, is essential. The process must be, by its very nature, iterative. There must be space to acknowledge that something isn’t working, and come up with a new ideas, plan, or approach.

* Understanding how learning drives change is important. Change can happen to us, as it happens to the girls in Tipping Point, or we can be more instrumental in how that change takes place. For that to happen participants need the kind of spaces and time that allows learning and the active challenging of existing power relations that is an inherent part of any learning with others that allows one to use new knowledge and apply it to existing situations.

*And thus, knowledge and for whom? Perhaps this is the most challenging. The question of credibility and the politics of evidence are points for heated discussion throughout international development and evaluation circles. This discussion continues to consume significant amounts of time and energy; to try and produce knowledge that meets an external set of highly subjective measures. Given that the aid/development sector generally operates with fairly limited resources, and choices must be made, one set of questions that are perhaps useful to consider are “Who needs to be convinced?”, “why?”, and “What are the costs then to local knowledge production and needs?”

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