Subhash Gupta

Global financial & management executive and development professional, USA

Knowledge for development is driven by the need to enhance operational efficiency, continuous improvement, organizational learning and innovation. The processes of cooperation and transmitting accumulated knowledge and experience between members of the group creates new knowledge. Knowledge for development is receiving increased attention for four reasons: a drive for efficiencies in delivery of programmes driven by the SDGs; the need for the development of new systems to improve the overall performance and an more accessible knowledge base; efforts to improve accountability and to mitigate risk by making informed decisions and resolving issues faster; and the delivery of better, more cost-effective services and a higher level of responsiveness to the public.

Managing knowledge is different from managing other resources. It requires a different kind of thinking: thinking about thinking (meta-cognition) and breaking out of standard management frameworks. Unlike tangible resources, knowledge is very difficult to capture and define, not to mention manage. Knowledge has been recognized as an important source of competitive advantage and value creation. A learning organization works to create values, practices and procedures in which learning and working are synonymous throughout the organization. It gives increased emphasis on knowledge capture, storage, sharing, retrieval and use.

Development policies and programmes are shaped by specific knowledge forums, worldviews and lived experiences. People may disagree on specific policies and programmes but if they agree on the premises and rationale that those policies and programmes embody, then their disagreement, while important, is somewhat superficial. There are two distinct ways to harnesses knowledge for development: knowledge management as a programmatic mode of engagement; and internal knowledge to strengthen programming and to also serve as catalyst for South-South cooperation. As a programmatic mode of engagement, knowledge management raises the capacity of countries to collect data and process them into knowledge in order to inform their own development.  As countries rise in their level of development, they know that a key characteristic of the higher levels of development is to be more knowledge-intensive. Internally, the field-generated knowledge is used by the organization to inform its programming. For example, good practice competitions generate useful knowledge to inform policies and technical guidance in challenging topics. Good practices are a type of evaluated, evidence-based programming knowledge that is consumed internally and shared externally.  Knowledge on innovations focuses on the creativity of the solution and timeliness.  It is timely because it does not wait for a formal programme evaluation.  An expert panel vets the innovation and evidence of results are gathered from pilot testing. 

In South-South cooperation, knowledge for development plays a catalytic role. While traditionally, South South cooperation is valued for its ability to encourage trade and to enable access to financial resources for infrastructure, it is recognized for its ability to promote the spread of technical knowledge between two developing countries.