Part III: Lessons from IKM1 and implications for IKM2

Many of areas of IKM1’s research, certainly the ones related to subject focus, will be discussed later in this document. However, five insights are highlighted here which need to be taken into account in the development of IKM2.

First, as IKM1 has progressed, it has been more and more clear that any research initiative of this kind, and its members, are strongly intertwined with what they are trying to change. One example of this is the complex interaction between practitioners and academics who are involved in the programme, but there are many other examples, from the administrative arrangements to which the programme is subject, and support IKM has provided to ‘commercial’ journals.

Second, IKM1 has represented a unique, innovative space with an iterative structure to explore issues related to knowledge and development, away from organisational priorities. This is a space worth trying to preserve. This is, however, both a plus and a minus because it makes it of less relevance to organisational management.

Third, IKM, with its interpretation of development as a knowledge sector, has been at the cutting edge of a growing understanding of a development knowledge commons. Given this interpretation and the fact that this is a new, even emerging field, there has been enormous space to develop new insights into the role of knowledge in development. This has involved developing new approaches – such as IKM Vines – but also applying older techniques – such as bibliometrics – to develop new insights.

Fourth, one of the things that IKM1 has highlighted – in many different ways – is the need to preserve the documentary record of what is happening in development practice. This record then needs to be accessible to stakeholders and beneficiaries of development. This is one reason why artefacts of transmission and exchange are of key importance.

Fifth, although IKM has developed a number of insights into development as a knowledge industry, at the same time, the overall development industry appears to be increasingly working in a way which is a reversal of this trend: increasing managerialism, more emphasis on linear planning, and even the new god of complexity is being ‘embraced’ in a way which supports the current status quo.

Organisational lessons

IKM1 is an iterative research project which has given it an enormous amount of flexibility. Four aspects of this will be highlighted because of their relevance to a possible IKM2.

First, research under IKM1 has not been fully funded. The relatively low remuneration rates for work have ensured that IKM researchers have also needed to be motivated to do the research or receive co-funding from their organisations. In this way, IKM1 has been following the energy of committed professionals who see the opportunity that IKM represents and who are already playing an active part in the informal network of those wanting to bring about innovation in development practice. One implication of this is that IKM1 has had extremely flexible working relationships with a wide range of people with whom it has come into contact through a sort of serendipity. This has made it possible to harness the energy of a number of ‘positive deviants’ in the development sector. For more on the importance of positive deviants to IKM, please see Powell and Cummings (In press).

Second, in its first few years, IKM was working in three working groups. However, the barriers between the working groups have been broken down recently for a number of reasons: the disbanding of one of the groups due to conflict; the fact that a number of major strands of research (for example Telradio and How wide are the ripples) transcended the work of different working groups; and an increased understanding of the need for cross-fertilization across the programme as a whole.

Third, the management role of the Director has been difficult to combine with his substantial research ambitions. This is symptomatic of the fact that the day-to-day management of IKM has been concentrated in too few hands.

Fourth, the Steering Group of IKM1 has functioned as a committed, reference group at a distance.

Implications for IKM2

IKM’s existence as an iterative, flexible research programme should be preserved, if possible, during its second phase. It should also continue to follow the energy of the ‘positive deviants’ with whom it is working already, but widening the network. There are three possible scenarios for the existence of IKM2:

Scenario 1: Continuing as an unfunded research network – as a network alone - with a focus on innovation in development. IKM2 could, under this scenario, be constituted as an EADI Working Group.

Scenario 2: Funding of parts of the activities of the network, making it a sort of patchwork which may have the IKM Emergent brand but often will not.

Scenario 3: Finding a donor organisation which would fully fund all IKM2 activities.

These scenarios are not mutually exclusive. For example, Scenario 3 could also incorporate Scenarios 1 and 2.

As proposed at Wageningen, IKM2 should be based on a series of thematic chapters based on key, themes and regional hubs that would form a cross-cutting structure. The thematic chapters would cover the four key themes and the regional hubs would have their centres in Europe, Eastern and Southern Africa, South Asia and Latin America & the Caribbean. Work within the chapters and themes, if applied to IKM1, could be represented as in Figure 1. This exercise has been done for illustrative purposes alone to show that not all regional hubs would necessarily be involved in work related to all of the key themes under IKM2.

Regional hubs and key themes would have their own managers which would give the programme a more diffuse management structure.

The current Steering Committee would be asked to continue to take part in the development and oversight of IKM2.

Administrative lessons

First, the administration of IKM has been taken by EADI. Although there is a basic tension between the financial and administrative procedures of EADI and its accountants, and the flexible and iterative nature of the programme, this is again a typical challenge faced by all development programmes. EADI has undertaken its administrative role with flexibility and commitment.

Implications for IKM2

It is proposed that IKM2, under Scenario 3, would again have its administration based at the EADI Secretariat.

What else should we do differently?

There are a number of other things, based on content and on organisation, that IKM2 should do differently than from IKM1. Three of these comprise:

- Any fully funded research programme (Scenario 3) should be preceded by a discussion among participants about their vision of development. This would also include an analysis of where they stand in the practitioner-academic continuum; making visible their, often unexpressed, vision of knowledge for development; and the extent to which they are committed to the knowledge commons. At this point, there would also be negotiation of procedures for solving conflicts among participants. The objective of this would to bring to light hidden attitudes and behaviours and to encourage mutual understanding. - Efforts should be made to develop more simple structures for administration. - Power relationships within and outside the programme need to be more explicitly addressed.