Institutions for Knowledge Sharing – Mandate and lessons from the Global Partnership meeting in Mexico

Panel discussion of the session on Knowledge Sharing Institutions and Knowledge Hubs, Mexico City, 15 April 2014

Last week, more than 1,600 development leaders gathered in Mexico City to discuss the best ways to support developing countries in their efforts against poverty and for sustainable development. During the First High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC), representatives from more than 130 countries looked into the future of development cooperation, or as many say, how the post-2015 development agenda will be implemented and who will contribute what and through which means.

Among many other critical issues such as domestic resource mobilization and more coherent action by private companies, Knowledge Sharing has been fully recognized by global leaders – the Mexico event was attended by UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark and minister-level representatives from 80 countries – as the third pillar of development cooperation, complementing technical and financial assistance.

This political backing of KS is neither new nor exclusive of the GPEDC, as in recent years, it has already been stressed by the United Nations Development Cooperation Forum and the G20. However, there is now more clarity on two levels, as highlighted in paragraphs 29 and 30 of the Mexico Communiqué endorsed last week (see pdf):

  • KS constitutes a cooperation form in full coherence with the multipolar world we live in, where solutions might come from any place of the world and be requested from anywhere. Therefore, KS can take place as South-South, North-South, South-North, regional and multilateral cooperation, indistinctively leading to horizontal partnerships of mutual benefit, leaving behind the provider-receiver concepts of technical and financial assistance (paragraph 29).
  • To take full advantage of KS, organizational and operational capacities must be strengthened in institutions sharing development solutions with domestic and international peers. In this area, the Knowledge Hubs (KH) agreed upon in the 2012 High-Level Meeting in Bali (Indonesia) constitute a key reference, and early lessons learned in the ongoing KH pilots in Colombia, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria are vital inputs for country-led institutions desiring to upgrade their capacities to share knowledge. These will be further deepened during the upcoming Second HLM on Country-Led Knowledge Hubs in Seoul on 23-26 June 2014.

Left to right: Steffen Janus (World Bank), Paulina Rodríguez (SEDESOL, Mexico), Rolandas Kriščiūnas, (Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lithuania) and Juanita Olarte (APC Colombia)

And indeed, Knowledge Hubs (KH) were lively discussed during the Mexico event with policy-makers and practitioners directly involved in KH, centers of excellence and similar institutions. Under the leadership of the Indonesian Minister for Development Planning, Armida Alisjahbana, a thematic side event on country for KS looked into practical options to develop capacities for systematic and structured KS for all actors, including government, civil society, academia and private sector. Representatives from Colombia, Indonesia, Korea, Lithuania, Mexico, and the Islamic Development Bank shared initiatives around some of the KH pillars:

  • How to identify relevant development solutions: This capacity is especially relevant at the level of line ministries and sector institutions as ‘homes’ of proven development solutions. For example, Colombia’s Presidential Agency of International Cooperation champions a criteria-based process to identify best practices and catalogue sector-level solutions, while Mexico’s Ministry of Social Development (SEDESOL) has already systematized its key experiences to be shared with peers and partners.
  • How to package and share knowledge: The capacity to ‘package’ (that is, methodologically prepare), adapt and share development solutions is still a pending issue for many KS institutions that rely on individual knowledge rather than on institutional memory. The Korean Knowledge Sharing Program (KSP) is a pioneer in packaging development solutions (for example in case studies when then are translated into training modules), while Indonesia includes strong Knowledge Sharing methodologies in its knowledge hub pilot hosted at the Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB), which pays particular attention to sharing knowledge domestically as well.
  • How to partner with peers around the world: Effective KS usually entails a continuous mutual learning, which is why the capacity to maintain long-term partnerships are so important. While countries such as Colombia, Indonesia and Mexico are experimenting with sub-regional and thematic clusters. In the case of SEDESOL, this also includes other national institutions (such as the development bank BANSEFIN and the public evaluation entity CONEVAL) coming on board to support partners abroad. In addition, multilateral programs (e.g. the Reverse Linkages of the Islamic Development Bank - see [pdf]) can shape an enabling environment for KS partnerships, importantly even across regions.
  • How to finance knowledge sharing: While KS tends to be relatively inexpensive, predictable budgets enable a high quality, depth and continuity of exchanges. In this area, SEDESOL dedicates a fixed share of its annual budget to KS, while Korean KSP stresses the importance of co-financing with all involved partners, as a sign of shared ownership.
  • How to document results: A core challenge of today’s KS is to strengthen the capacity to document results and evaluate impact, which is difficult to the non-tangible character of both inputs (i.e. solutions) and outcomes (e.g. change). Colombia’s APC includes result orientation in its planning process, Korean KSP uses case studies in this area, Indonesia follows up with ex-post field visits, and there is a consensus to draw on social media technologies to share results of KS programs and activities.
  • How to use multilateral support for KS: In particular International Financial Institutions such as the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank have become very active in supporting KS among their member countries. The WB is engaged with a number of country-led institutions to build Knowledge Hubs, while also offering practical tools such as the Art of Knowledge Exchange.

For institutions and practitioners involved in KS, this concrete debate around institutional and operational questions constitute an essential step forward in their efforts to engage in exchanges that are more systematic and sustained over time. Critically, the Mexico event was part of an already ongoing process of learning around KH, taking place here in a dedicated Community of Practice hosted at knowledgehubs.org and to be enriched during the Seoul HLM in June. In this context, an ongoing call collects case stories on KHs, which already has gathered the experiences from more than 50 institutions, including from governments, civil society, academia and private sector (see more here).

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