The Art of Knowledge Exchange
What Can Knowledge Exchange Help You Achieve?
Knowledge exchange, or peer-to-peer learning, is a powerful way to share, replicate, and scale up what works in development. Development practitioners want to learn from the practical experience of others who have gone through, or are going through, similar challenges. They want to be connected to each other and have ready access to practical knowledge and solutions.
When done right, knowledge exchange can build the capacity, confidence, and conviction of individuals and groups to act. Examples of these direct results or intermediate outcomes from a knowledge exchange include
- technical water specialists in several sub-districts of Bangladesh learn new skills to replicate good practices (shared by their peers) for building and maintaining a safe water supply.
- dairy sector and ministry of agriculture officials in Tanzania reach agreement on a blueprint of potential dairy sector reforms because of a new shared understanding and improved collaboration.
- farmers in Kenya adopt an innovative rice growing methodology — System of Rice Intensification (SRI) — to increase the yield from their land after learning from the experience of countries that pioneered this methodology.
These direct results from knowledge exchange can also influence results at the institutional and even systemic levels as shown in the figure below. Participants of successful knowledge exchanges are empowered and motivated to make things happen. They will seek to change the environment in which they operate, affect policies and norms that influence the way people behave, and strengthen the institutions where they work. For example,
- with their enhanced proficiency and successful replication of good practices, the technical water-specialists in Bangladesh contributed to a reduction in water-borne diseases.
- the improved consensus on reforms among the key stakeholders in the Tanzania dairy sector led to a reduction in regulations and a more efficient dairy sector.
- encouraged by the initial results of SRI methodology adopted by the pioneer Kenyan farmers, the Kenya government, academia, and the private sector supported the scale-up of SRI in several regions through a range of initiatives. Some examples: the Kenyan national irrigation board organized national workshops and farmer field days to encourage knowledge sharing, universities allocated funds to support doctoral research on SRI, and the private sector made local weeders for farmers using SRI methodology.
The Direct Results and Influence Achieved from Knowledge Exchange
“While visiting Chowgacha I discovered a unique solution to arsenic contamination. After coming back [from this knowledge exchange] we adapted and replicated this approach in our own context. This has now spread to the entire upazila and beyond.”~ Ranihati Union Parishad Chairman, Chapai Nawabganj Sadar Upazila, Bangladesh
“I got eleven bags of paddy from my quarter acre trial, compared to the usual eight bags for that plot. But what’s amazing was that each bag weighed 95kg for the SRI paddy but only 80kg for the conventional method. In the following year, I converted all my two acres to practice the SRI method.” ~ Moses Kareithi, pioneer SRI farmer, Kenya
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