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Adolph, Barbara (2005)
Publisher: IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre
Languages: English
Types: Unknown
Subjects: S1
Learning alliances (LAs) are considered to be a more sustainable alternative for sharing knowledge than research projects, because they enable flexible partnerships between a larger range of organisational levels, combine local adaptations with sharing of experience in a wider community, and are less constrained by project time horizons. This paper argues that, even though LAs have a number of advantages over projects, effective knowledge sharing and creation of innovations can only happen if there is a strong element of action research involved, which enables alliance partners to share the tacit knowledge embedded in technologies and innovations. Innovations both build on existing knowledge, and generate new knowledge. This knowledge can be either explicit (i.e. it can be codified and transmitted in a generally understood form, such as text) or implicit/ tacit (i.e. embodied in individuals and their skills and experiences). The tacit knowledge component of innovations is harder to share and scale up than those components that can be codified - leading to an inconsistency in knowledge transfer. In agricultural development, most innovations are nowadays about "doing things differently", including new ways of interacting and organising, rather than "doing different things", such as growing new crop varieties. These innovations have a very high component of tacit knowledge. While some authors have argues that tacit knowledge can be transferred into explicit knowledge, this paper argues that some forms of tacit knowledge can only be shared through "knowledge in action", e.g. doing things together. Therefore action research projects provide a valid component of learning alliances. The paper illustrates this with two cases from agricultural research that involved multi-agency, multi-disciplinary teams.
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