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Between ambition and approach: towards sustainable knowledge management in development organizations

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Author Info

  • Ferguson, J.E.

    (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Faculteit der Economische Wetenschappen en Econometrie (Free University Amsterdam, Faculty of Economics Sciences, Business Administration and Economitrics)

  • Huysman, M.H.
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    Abstract

    Over the past forty years, worldwide efforts have been mobilized to address the inequalities that have led to the marginalization and deprivation of billions of people. These efforts have been broached by the sector of development cooperation, which is increasingly recognized as a knowledge-intensive sector. In this article, we critically analyze how knowledge management is perceived and approached within development organizations. We identify a contradiction in terms of the ambition of knowledge management to foster an open networking perspective, versus the approach by which knowledge management is implemented. This approach is characterized by four biases: a management, technology, objectivist, and transfer bias. We argue that as a result of these biases, knowledge management risks becoming counter effective to development purposes, strengthening rather than mitigating power inequalities. We present the concept of situated mutual learning as a promising avenue to overcoming the prevailing contradictions, contributing to more sustainable and effective development interventions. The study is based on seven case studies of development organizations and comprises fifty interviews of practitioners and policy makers actively involved in knowledge management.

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    File URL: ftp://zappa.ubvu.vu.nl/20090003.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Econometrics in its series Serie Research Memoranda with number 0003.

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    Date of creation: 2009
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    Handle: RePEc:dgr:vuarem:2009-3

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    Web page: http://www.feweb.vu.nl

    Related research

    Keywords: development cooperation; knowledge management; transfer bias; situated mutual learning;

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

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    10. Haridimos Tsoukas, 2001. "What is Organizational Knowledge?," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(7), pages 973-993, November.
    11. Amin, Ash & Roberts, Joanne, 2008. "Knowing in action: Beyond communities of practice," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 353-369, March.
    12. Anderson, Edward, 2005. "Openness and inequality in developing countries: A review of theory and recent evidence," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(7), pages 1045-1063, July.
    13. Mats Alvesson, 2001. "Odd Couple: Making Sense of the Curious Concept of Knowledge Management," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(7), pages 995-1018, November.
    14. Anthony Bebbington & Scott Guggenheim & Elizabeth Olson & Michael Woolcock, 2004. "Exploring Social Capital Debates at the World Bank," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(5), pages 33-64.
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