Riff Fullan, Cesar Robles and Monika Herger

Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation, Knowledge and Learning team, Swizerland

It is through knowledge and learning that we as individuals meaningfully interact with others and with our wider environment. Participation in knowledge use, exchange and creation is also the foundation of collective action and achievement. As social, climate and economic challenges impact our world in multidimensional ways, it is increasingly important to bring diverse perspectives and experiences together in order to better understand those challenges and to take action to address them. This becomes even more important when we recognize that sustainable solutions require mutual understanding, compromise and commitment to a greater good.

Creating equitable solutions should be an important shared value in any case, but we repeatedly see examples where a lack of knowledge sharing, collaboration and learning from failure are major impediments to arriving at solutions that contribute to a sustainable and more just world. We keep on witnessing the utilization of knowledge as a tool for structural power, leading to greater inequalities.

It is crucial that we recognize the essentially social nature of knowledge and learning. Their importance to our collective future means we need to promote and practice more networked ways of working. Just as Agenda 2030 draws our attention to the global nature of sustainable development, knowledge for development requires a similar perspective, as the interconnectedness of challenges and potential solutions is also a global phenomenon.

A knowledge agenda – at any level – should have a people-centered approach. Transcendent knowledge initiatives are those that keep people and diversity at their core, because after all, the best learning tool we have is each other, and the power of knowledge generation comes from inclusion, not exclusion.