Open Knowledge Through Partnerships | World Bank Institute (WBI)

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Building on its role as a global connector, the World Bank is investing about $3 million a year in six new Knowledge Platforms as a working experiment in greater openness and collaboration.
  • The platforms will further open the way the World Bank creates and shares knowledge and make the institution more connected, efficient, and focused on results.
  • WBI supported the platform 'Open Development Technology Alliance" which aided data mapping in Dar Es Salaam.

 

September 22, 2011―One of the key tenets of the World Bank’s open knowledge initiative is recognizing that there is no monopoly on new ideas, and that in ever increasing instances, the first steps to solving complex or vexing development issues can be taken anywhere— by public or private citizens, by nonprofit or for-profit companies, by governments or nongovernment organizations, or, sometimes, simply by a group of motivated students.

Armed with GPS tools once unthinkable, a group of 25 local students in August 2011 began geocoding every home, road, footpath, drain, school, shop, and water and waste collection point in a neighborhood of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city. The effort is the first step in a plan to map marginalized communities in the rapidly growing city and turn them into more livable places. It’s also an example of a new approach to problem-solving that taps into the promise of technology and power of social networks, as well as into the wisdom of local and global experts and innovators.
 

open-quotesWhat is so interesting about this approach is that it brings organizations and individuals together who may never have met to work over a three-year period to fundamentally change what is known about an issue.close-quotesMahmoud Mohieldin, World Bank Managing Director

Platforms to Connect

Building on its role as a global connector, the World Bank is investing about $3 million a year in six new Knowledge Platforms as a working experiment in greater openness and collaboration. The platforms embody a new approach to connectivity inside the World Bank and across an international community of research centers, academic institutions, think tanks, practitioners, and the private sector.

The World Bank has a long history of working with others, but the platforms are among the earliest large-scale initiatives intended to broaden knowledge partnerships as part of its move toward a more collaborative and open approach to development.

“What is so interesting about this approach is that it brings organizations and individuals together who may never have met to work over a three-year period to fundamentally change what is known about an issue,” said Mahmoud Mohieldin, World Bank Managing Director, who chairs the World Bank’s Knowledge and Learning Council. “The platforms have a true potential to transform the way we co-create knowledge.”

The six Knowledge Platforms were chosen through two phases of open competition and announced in January and July 2011. The first group of three platforms initiated was on urbanization, green growth, and information and communication technologies, aiding the Dar es Salaam mapping effort. The second group selected focuses on jobs, food security, and fragility, conflict, and violence. Within a few months of the program’s launch, the platforms already engaged a wide and influential range of partners, including NASA, Google, McKinsey, Cisco, the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, the Penn Institute for Urban Research, the Brookings Institution, and the United Nations.

Aniruddha Dasgupta, the director of the Reform Secretariat leading the World Bank’s knowledge strategy, said the platforms will further open the way the World Bank creates and shares knowledge and make the institution more connected, efficient, and focused on results.“The Bank is not the only source of expertise on every topic or subject,” Dasgupta said. “That expertise is out there.”

Sharing Knowledge on the Ground

In Dar es Salaam urban planning students from the local Ardhi University are geocoding with assistance from community volunteers and are also receiving support from a local nongovernmental organization focused on improving access to information. The Bank worked with the university to embed community mapping into the curriculum so students who already receive a small stipend contribute to the project while gaining experience in the field. And the Bank, acting as a “matchmaker” and networker, introduced city officials to the concept and to the partners that could make the project happen, said Edward Anderson, a member of the information and communications technology platform team supporting the Dar es Salaam project.

“In less than three years from now, we hope there will be a network of citizens aware of the community mapping and know how to give feedback about trash collection, road maintenance, potholes, and drain flooding,” Anderson said. One important aspect of the Bank’s expanding knowledge partnerships is the ability to welcome collaboration on a local scale, as with the Dar es Salaam project, or on a much broader, global scale. 

A recent agreement between the Bank and the internal group of urban mayors known as the C40 was signed in São Paulo to strengthen cooperation on city climate action plans and standardized reporting of city greenhouse gas emissions across the world. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the C40 chairman, praised the agreement as a “unique partnership” that will give international leaders valuable access to Bank experts and support. “In turn,” Bloomberg added, “this support will help drive local emission cutting actions that will have a significant global impact.”