How wide are the ripples? The management and use of information generated from participatory processes in international non-governmental development organisations.

In early 2009 five international development NGOs participated in reflection and discussion as part of a research project called ‘How wide are the ripples?’. The aim was to explore the flow and influence of knowledge produced in grassroots participatory processes within the international NGOs which commissioned or initiated process.  This work was supported within a wider research programme called IKM Emergent, which aims to explore how knowledge is used in development, and specifically to promote the recognition and use of ‘Southern knowledge’.  In addition to working with the five participating organisations Hannah Beardon and Kate Newman (independent consultants commissioned by IKM to conduct the research) linked to a wide variety of people who reflected on the questions and shared innovative approaches, which contributed to the learning.

The research, which included a background literature review, identified the context in which INGOs are operating and some inherent obstacles to bottom-up knowledge flow in international organisations.  It also documented examples of how organisations have tried to deal with these blocks, and promote the flow of information from the grassroots to contribute to the organisational understanding of, and response to, development issues.  For example:

  • What is different or distinct about knowledge management when applied to participatory approaches?
  • Do INGOs have a special role and responsibility in bridging local knowledge and international policy regarding development?
  • What kinds of knowledge and information generated through participatory methods can be useful to others in different contexts?
  • What are the practical ways to encourage, enable and facilitate the flow of such knowledge? And
  • How can debate on these questions be encouraged and enriched in INGOs across the development sector?

The review, case studies and report are available here:

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