And so, what happened in Brussels? Following on Josine's, Sarah's and Catherine's graceful initiative, a few very nice people got together to discuss approaches and good practices in connecting Academics, Practitioners and Policy-makers for development. In the midst of our discussion, a bee joined to tell us we should not forget about the role of Corporations in development. Gratefully, we then expanded our vision to encompass all four sets of actors: Academics, Practitioners, Policy-makers and Corporations
. Here is how we tried to picture our thoughts:
Here is how we framed the argument:
- Integrating across the four sets of actors, sectors and cultures is a wicked problem: it does not really have a solution that we can see yet we must keep solving the problem.
(a tool used to help measure text and information) can help with seeing thoughts emerging from groups of people working/writing in a particular field.
- Practitioners tend to be very practical and closed in their own work, interested in their own lessons learnt only and usually unwilling to spend time working with Academics and Policy-makers. They are also mistrustful of Corporations.
- Policy-makers work well with Academics but do not engage much with Practitioners because of a perceived lack of common ground between themselves and that group. Often, Policy-makers are also Academics ...
- Policy-makers view knowledge as a thing that would help them create the right and just policies. To them, knowledge is rarely a process.
- Academics are concerned with how much they can publish on the issue of their research ... They are usually pressed for time and have little inclination to change their way of work. In this, however, they can be more interested in engaging with Practitioners than Policy-makers.
- Corporations have one main bottom line: profit. In this, provided it is profitable, they may be willing to serve and fulfil social objectives.
-- Some summaries of the first day discussion:
-- On the second day, we did peer-assists on connectors among the four sets of actors (Josine), KM4Dev journal (Sarah) and enabling a CoP of academics, policy-makers and practitioners work well (Oksana).The key outputs of the discussion were:
-- For the different sectors to better integrate their work, there should be strong and compelling incentives for them to do so. One strong and compelling incentive is funding – if more projects and initiatives that are cross-sectoral are funded, then more and more the sectors will work together.
-- Change within the different sectors, organizations and individuals must begin taking place for the work among the different to be better integrated.
-- Sometimes sectors overlap (i.e., when a policy-maker is also an academic). More often though the sectors are connected via ‘connectors’ – usually consultants working across the sectors or people who are in one of the sectors yet intentionally connect with the other sectors.
-- The issue of ‘open’ and ‘closed’ knowledge must be considered in terms of creating conditions for partnerships and integration. Academics may be unwilling to openly share information and knowledge unless it’s been already published because of pressures in the academic sector. Corporations may be unwilling to share their knowledge and information because of competition. At least in part, cultures within the sectors should change for better integration and knowledge sharing. In addition, incentives and systems should change, too.Case studies illustrating these points:
-- In a particular UN IO, a senior person once said he has no time to read through what the Organization publishes … Still, he always reads consultants’ reports that analyze what’s been published by the organisation, regularly.
-- In a country in Latin America, a certain corporation producing disability chairs once cooperated extremely well with a local NGO working in the area of disability. This was in order to produce exactly the disability chairs customers want (strong incentives).