Knowledge Hubs as agents of change
What are Knowledge Hubs?
Knowledge is familiarity, awareness or understanding of someone or something, such as facts, information, descriptions, or skills, which is acquired through experience, or education, by perceiving, discovering, or learning. Knowledge can refer to a theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. It can be implicit (as with practical skill or expertise) or explicit (as with the theoretical understanding of a subject); it can be more or less formal or systematic.“Knowledge” is commonly understood as capacity for effective action, which includes information useful for effective action (making decisions, solving problems, or physical action).
The management of knowledge aims to facilitate the supply of the right knowledge to the right person at the right time in order to take effective action. Knowledge management has an important role to play in developing the capacity of organizations and individuals to improve urban management and the towards the achievement of national and international sanitation goals. To be more effective, the sector needs to be more dynamic and adaptable in its strategy, design and implementation – and that in turn requires that more emphasis is placed on sharing knowledge.
Knowledge Management (KM) science has gone through a development from an initial focus on technology (and knowledge banks) to a focus on sharing and learning among peers and on learning by doing in networks. In KM literature thus is often referred to as the three generations of KM, which are characterized by the words: Collect, Connect and Cooperate. Knowledge management requires systems and technologies to ensure that information and knowledge is documented and organized in a way that it can be easily retrieved and used by those who need it. Opportunities for sector professionals to interact, share their knowledge and experience and to jointly generate new knowledge are equally important. Cross-country platforms and networks can enable learning from the field to regional and global levels. Knowledge management and learning are not achieved by a one-time project intervention, but entail a continuous process towards improvement (IRC, 2012)
Knowledge Hubs are institutions or networks that enable countries to learn systematically by sharing and exchanging development experiences with domestic and international partners in order to accelerate development.
In broad terms, there are two types of Knowledge Hubs: Some are National Knowledge Hubs, which usually act as central coordination agencies. They cover a certain range of, if not all, sectors and themes on which solutions can be exchanged and involve mostly government institutions of a country, such as line ministries, sector institutions or thematic centers of excellence. These hubs stand for a broad effort to channel knowledge to and from partners abroad and among domestic players. As such, they are often coordinating with thematic knowledge hubs as implementing entities. Others are Thematic Knowledge Hubs, which focus on specific solutions in distinct sectors and areas, such as agriculture, climate change, public health or social protection. Institutional models are very diverse, depending on the specific national and sector context, and range from departments in line ministries, to cross-country Communities of Practice. Thematic knowledge hubs are usually practitioner-driven and tend to proactively involve broad groups of specialized actors, including central governments, local authorities, academia, the private sector, and civil society organizations.
Building a Knowledge Hub is a practical way for countries to respond to the increased demand for Knowledge Exchange worldwide. As the demand for Southern countries to supply knowledge has grown, governments have begun to invest in dedicated institutional and operational arrangements for peer-to-peer learning. Countries from all income levels want to learn from the practical experiences of their peers: what pitfalls to avoid, what practices to adopt. Similarly, countries with interesting development experiences are increasingly eager to share their knowledge. For many countries, sharing their knowledge and experience is a way to develop meaningful international partnerships. As demand for the exchange of practical development experiences grows, countries are seeking better, more predictable ways to connect and scale up their knowledge sharing.
The functional areas that inspire development practitioners and policymakers to think about creating and consolidating institutions for knowledge exchange include the following:
To ensure that policy-makers fully support knowledge exchange as an important tool
To bring all relevant national players on board and creates a ‘catalogue’ of knowledge and solutions available in a country
To engage with partners abroad and connects them to national institutions
To provide tools for making knowledge happen, for example through modality such as dialogues, expert visits, twinning arrangements etc.
The South Asia Urban Knowledge Hub (K-Hub) is one such regional and thematic and knowledge Hub that concentrates on efforts on regional capacity development on urban issues of four nations – India,Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. It has a strong emphasis on knowledge solutions, knowledge management and regional cooperation. The four South Asian countries that are members of this hub are faced with the challenge of maintaining vital economic growth while ensuring access to services and a livable environment for all including for the poor. So the crosscutting theme is “urban”.
The aim of the K-Hub is to build the knowledge management capacity of existing urban research or training institutes in South Asia to provide policy makers and practitioners with innovative and evidence-based solutions. The eventual purpose is to enable the K-Hub to be leveraged in the direction of (a) develop and promote ideas related to innovative and cross-cutting urban issues, (b) integrate learning into investment for projects and policy advisory work and (c) strengthen knowledge partnerships in the region. The distinctive elements of the South Asia Urban K-Hub are on its strong emphasis on collaboration and advocate evidence/practice-based outcomes.
What do we have to share?
The South Asian Urban K-Hub is developing a knowledge platform to facilitate sustainable development of its region. The four nations that are currently involved in the project have diverse approaches to achieve the objectives of the K-Hub.
India is working on a framework for inclusive prosperity at the city level for a few selected cities, advocating on the need to plan for innovative on-site sanitation solutions through a knowledge product and a regional database on the demographic and socioeconomic condition of India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is working on establishing an Environmental Management Information System. Bangladesh is working on establishing safe and sustainable urban living by improving the overall environment though implementing appropriate fecal sludge management (FSM) services and improving living conditions in urban slums and low-income communities, through knowledge based integrated development. Nepal is working on the construction of an innovative fecal sludge treatment plant and to influence municipal budget to allocate for household FSM. All the four centres are going to work on recommendations for an improved Master of Planning curriculum in their respective countries.
Access to information is considered as a key factor in knowledge construction and the same is a weak aspect in the South Asia region. Therefore, the K-Hub is trying to develop a platform to share the information that is useful for research related to the region. There is a lot of emphasis in the area of Urban Sanitation. The information available in partner countries is diverse and produced in different formats. The South Asian Urban K-Hub will share the information on:
its ongoing research in the area of sanitation and urban management as discussed above
some innovative ideas that have potential to lead towards new research areas
the regional and national challenges that require broader contribution of experts’ involvement
The K-Hub disseminates the information on a common platform, which has an access to a broader audience. The information shared is delivered under following categories.
Research and publications
South Asia Urban News
Events and Experiences
The information is accessible online through the website of the South Asia Urban K-Hub (http://niua.org/khub/) In addition, the highlights of the Knowledge Hub will be disseminated via the biannual Newsletter.
What can we achieve?
The concept of regional knowledge hub enables partnering countries to achieve more in a particular aspect. As an isolated entity one may gather insufficient knowledge and perspective on a specific topic like health and diseases, socio economic development etc. Making a regional hub enables broader scope and analysis for a situation and hence empowers the individual entities to provide a better solution to a concern. Successful regional knowledge hubs have been established before to fight diseases like HIV/AIDS (http://www.aidsknowledgehub.org), to increase awareness on natural resources and governance (http://www.resourcegovernance.org), and for promoting knowledge exchange and capacity development on priority topics like water (http://www.waterknowledgehub.org) etc.
The inception of South Asia Urban K-Hub among its partnering countries (India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal) holds a great prospect for sustainable urbanization in this region. The partnering countries are all marked by rapid economic proliferation and as a result fast urbanization is observed in this region. The similarities in urban development in this region are unique in terms of type and extent, and are different than those observed in other parts of the world. The onset of rapid urbanization is marked with profiferation of slum areas in this region. Providing sustainable services like water supply and sanitation, power, transportation etc. to the growing cities is an enormous concern to the authorities of the partnering countries. Through sharing the knowledge earned from individual experiences the partnering countries can approach a particular issues with enhanced capacity. This will help everyone to develop sustainable solutions to various urban development issues. Formation of regional urban knowledge hub can ensure regional partnership in addressing common issues related to urban development. It may pave pathways to twinning relationship between similar Government and Non-Government organizations for efficient operation and governance within the region. The knowledge hub will work as a repository for such organizations and it will provide a platform for communicating knowledge and enhance the capacity of these organizations.
How can we contribute?
The South Asia Urban K-Hub embraces a great opportunity to contribute to the overall urban development in the partnering countries. One of the main objectives of the K-Hub is to provide policy makers and practitioners with innovative and evidence-based solutions to different urban issues and to engage them in developing policies for sustainable urban development. The configuration of the K-Hub has provided a stimulating opportunity to the partner nations to contribute at different levels for its urban development. There are opportunities to contribute at regional, national, institutional, and individual levels.
The platform provided by the K-Hub will enable individual researchers or research organizations to disseminate their congregate knowledge to different stakeholders and policy makers, thereby empowering individuals to contribute towards sustainable urban development. At the institutional level, the K-Hub will provide opportunities like twinning opportinites and training programs to different urban service providing institutes. These programs will facilitate individual institutions with organizational capacity development and will ensure better service to the consumers. Thus, in due course, this will contribute to improved urban development in the partner countries of K-Hub.
At country level, the K-Hub can raise awareness on different urban issues and bring different think tanks under one umbrella to produce solutions for those particular issues. K-Hub will promote evidence based action research related to different urban development scenario and influence the policy makers to develop policies for sustainable urban development. Thus, it will play a vital role at the national level to contribute to the overall urban development of the nation.
Finally the K-Hub through its regional aspect will contribute to the overall urban management capacity of the partnering countries. The regional aspect will enable experience sharing on different urban initiatives taken within the partner countries, which will include the advantages and disadvantages, successes and failures or such initiatives. Through sharing of such knowledge the partnering countries can plan and develop policies for sustainable urban development within each country. Thus the South Asia Urban K-Hub can contribute to the overall urban development of the region.