Saskia Hollander 

Knowledge Management Director, The Broker, a think net on globalization and development, The Netherlands

Independent knowledge is crucial for inclusive development. Yet, while there is a wealth of scientific knowledge that is relevant for achieving the SDGs, too often this knowledge does not reach policy-makers and practitioners. As a result, the value of academic research is undermined. The political will to fund long-term research is declining, and universities and knowledge institutions increasingly need to partner with business and stakeholders for funding, thereby threatening scientific independence. When scientific research becomes merely demand-driven and when facts are (mis)used for political aims, inclusive societies are jeopardized.

The gap between policy and knowledge goes two ways. There is a gap from research to policy, because scientific results often are poorly translated into recommendations or they are too context-specific. This obscures the policy relevance of research findings. There is also a gap from policy to research, because policymakers and practitioners often find it difficult to formulate clear knowledge questions and often are too impatience to await scientific results. Knowledge brokering institutions have an important role to play in bridging this gap and in making knowledge ‘work’ for inclusive development.

Inclusive development requires above all inclusive knowledge! The Agenda Knowledge for Development should acknowledge the value of knowledge creation, but also recognize the importance of knowledge sharing and of linking academic research to other forms of knowledge. This includes both scientific and non-scientific knowledge, various academic disciplines, and, above all, knowledge from different countries, geographical levels and actors. Ensuring that policymakers use this full diversity of knowledge requires knowledge brokers with the ability to connect and synthesize different worlds of knowledge, and the skills to network and generate processes of co-creation. In the Netherlands, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is supporting five knowledge platforms that ensure the formulation of a policy relevant knowledge agenda and the brokering of research on inclusive development. This pays off but there still is a long way to go. Continuing efforts should be made to ensure that research reaches policy and vice versa.