Promoting knowledge-sharing among stakeholders

Apart from being instrumental for the building of ties and trust among the stakeholders through the use of PAR techniques, knowledge sharing is the lifeblood for any policy network like the ones that result from the INSPIRED dialogue processes. Indeed, the most common resource exchange among the nodes of a network is information. Intangible as it may be, knowledge capital is one of the most sought-after assets when engaging in networks and will therefore determine the durability and long-term sustainability of any collective endeavour.
Knowledge can either be shared, transferred or created, thus defining the kind of relations that can be progressively established between stakeholders. Given its strategic nature – as Thomas Hobbes already says in his Leviathan: knowledge is power – these exchanges are governed either by reciprocity or by mutual interest, which explains why they also need to be brokered by a trusted facilitator.
Moreover, knowledge can fulfil different purposes depending on its content –descriptive, explanatory, normative, subjective– or take different forms –reports, papers, diagrams, etc.–, but in most cases, its credibility and reliability are also determined by power relations. For instance, public officials will tend to favour indicators and statistics for their presumed objectivity, while discarding or neglecting other forms of qualitative and/or subjective evidence that can be key to appraise the effectiveness of policy (users experience, community empowerment, etc.). However, these other types of knowledge need to be brought into the equation if policy wants to be truly inclusive and participatory. Consequently, policy dialogue processes must strive to integrate three types of knowledge: Research-based knowledge –the one produced by scientists, professional groups and academics–, practice-informed knowledge –generated by organisations, local groups or institutions when tackling specific issues– and citizen knowledge –which stems from citizens, civil society organisations or indigenous groups out of their first-hand experience regarding the problem at stake. This is why the Centre for Policy Studies, the INSPIRED Dialogue Host in Kyrgyzstan, decided to walk the extra mile and launch an online consultation process to collect insight from people with disabilities from across the whole country in order to feed the discussions that were being held with the public authorities in Bishkek.
Up to date, an important part of the research needed to develop the Participatory Policy Assessments has been carried out by local policy experts hired for that purpose so as to avoid burdening the stakeholders with extra workload. However, whenever funding for research can be made available, the Dialogue Host could also invite the stakeholders in the dialogue process to develop a joint research planning and proceed to a division of labour in which different organizations will carry out research as agreed collectively by the participants in the dialogue process. This would enhance the ownership of the stakeholders over the products resulting from that research, while opening more entry points for those other types of knowledge that are all too often side-lined.