Georgina Aboud: Take it as gospel

Development Policy25 Aug 2009Georgina Aboud
This week The Broker is blogging from the Towards Knowledge Democracy conference in Leiden, The Netherlands. Conference Blogger Georgina Aboud will report back from the event which invites participants to share visions and experiences on how to deal with the challenges and possibilities that occur on the interface between science, politics, society and the media.

When I walked into the crowded grand hall, with its cedar benches and exquisite stain glass, and heard I was going to listen to Julie Klein Thompson and the testimonials, I wondered whether I had stumbled into a church with a gospel choir rather than the ‘Towards Knowledge Democracy’ conference plenary. However, Julie didn’t open with a rendition of ‘We Gather Together’; rather, she took the testimonials from keynote speakers and participants and built an interesting talk for the first theme of ‘Knowledge and Future Research’.

The epigraphs set the scene for how knowledge can best be utilised through brokering or comprehensive structures. She then examined the definitions of knowledge, democracy and research. When she spoke of Felix Janszen’s testimonial – of the challenge to combine the global academic knowledge produced at universities and research institutes with the local, practical knowledge of people to co-create new institutions – it made me think of Robert Chambers’ work, where university professors actually provide the facilitation for local people to guide their own processes and create solutions to problems. Indeed, this idea is echoed in Julie’s suggestion that ‘knowledge is what people know of their neighbourhoods.’ Julie went on to examine the trends around transdisciplinary research and the emergence of the digital commons. What I particularly liked about her presentation was that she outlined the richness of the ideas in a really accessible way and with tremendous energy. While there was no singing, Julie didn’t disappoint; it was a great beginning to what could have been a dry start.