Parallel Session 17
Knowledge for Peace – How to share it and how to make use of it?
The goal of this session was to instigate an exchange among participants from research, practice and policy on how we can improve our efforts of joint (interdisciplinary) knowledge creation and how we can organize and improve linkages between research, policy and practice. Based on inputs by Megan Price and Anke van der Kwaak – both working for knowledge platforms funded by the Dutch Foreign Ministry – and by Viktoria Bechstein from the German Federal Foreign Office, the participants reflected on challenges to creating and sharing knowledge.
A key problem we face in our everyday work is not the lack of evidence, but rather the question of how to deal with the gap between evidence and knowledge. Evidence is the information at hand, whereas knowledge is intangible. It is derived from evidence. In essence, it is the difference between recognizing a fact (evidence) and knowing what to do about it (knowledge).
Contrary to common perception, research or policy-making does not take place in a bubble, but in an environment of high input. The acceptance of this cacophony – as Megan Price called it – is the prerequisite for reaching knowledge. Thus, knowledge is created in a collaborative pursuit based on trusting relationships and a combination of implicit and explicit knowledge and the exchange between different groups of actors: Practitioners (do-ers), researchers (thinkers), policy-makers (deciders).
In their inputs, Megan Price and Anke van der Kwaak as researchers and Victoria Bechstein as a policy-maker stressed that attitudes and expectations of researchers as well as policy-makers should change to enable a more fertile collaboration. Often, ministries expect scientists to deliver “miracles” or “easy solutions”. However, as knowledge for peace is not physics, as Megan Price put it, policy-makers can only expect the establishment and forecast of trends. At the same time, Victoria Bechstein stressed that “thinkers” should not only provide lessons learned, but also lessons from lessons learned, which in turn puts scientist under constant pressure to prove their research is transferable into policy.
The Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law (KPSR), the Knowledge Platform on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SNI) and the Federal Foreign Office use certain mechanisms to meet these challenges, which are all based on enhancing the proximity of the actors involved. The regular integration of researchers into ministries is highly useful. It opens the black box of formerly closed institutions and increases trust between the different groups of actors. Researchers can present their research directly to policy-makers. At the same time, policy-makers can indicate which priority knowledge gaps they want to be addressed.
Participants noted that proximity often comes at the price of excluding other practitioners. Researchers could act as intermediaries between practitioners and policy-makers. This implies a good basis of knowledge sharing and relationship between ‘do-ers’ and researchers, which is currently looking rather tarnished. Very often, practitioners carry the main burden of obtaining knowledge, whereas the knowledge they acquired is not re-translated into the spheres of research and policy. Additionally, a two-class-system between researchers and those being researched was discussed: In many cases those being researched and having the on-hand expertise, receive no feedback on the research conducted on them. This creates issues of (mis)trust, which the Dutch knowledge platforms try to overcome by using digital technologies as an important communication tool providing access to a wide mass. KPSR included a voting mechanism for its members in order to increase participation in the process of setting the research agenda. SNI is organized in country hubs, each made up of communities of actors working together, thus receiving feedback from all ends.
Although a number of solutions for enhancing the transfer of knowledge between different groups of actors in peacebuilding were discussed, many questions remained unanswered: Is research relevant for practitioners as well as policy-makers? How can a balance be achieved between research-driven and donor-driven agendas? Which methods can be used to share the knowledge with the intended audiences successfully? How can the use of knowledge be promoted? How can the challenge of echo chambers be overcome? How can imbalances in the distribution of power in these processes be made visible? How can initiatives on enhancing knowledge sharing reach “unusual suspects”?
The Institute for Development and Peace (INEF) will follow up on these open questions and organize a workshop in late 2018.
- Megan Price, Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law (KPSR), The Hague, Head of Office of the Secretariat
- Anke van der Kwaak, Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), Amsterdam, Team Leader Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, International Senior Advisor, Knowledge Platform on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (Share-Net International, SNI)
- Viktoria Bechstein, Federal Foreign Office, Directorate‑General for Humanitarian Assistance, Crisis Prevention Stabilisation and Post‑Conflict Reconstruction, Berlin
Facilitator: Cornelia Ulbert, Institute for Development and Peace (INEF), University of Duisburg-Essen