Knowledge and learning in community-led initiatives

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Community-led initiatives tend to be action-focused and take a pragmatic approach to knowledge and learning. Their actions are often broad and multifaceted, making the research of their impacts complex. Processes of collective action learning are at the heart of everything that community-led initiatives do. Communities for Future wiki aims to present the vast pool of such learning in a format of knowledge commons which seems most appropriate given its fluidity. ECOLISE, the organisation that maintains this wiki, aims to operate as a learning organisation and to support its members as learning networks and active participants in knowledge creation with its CfF Learn working group.

Overview

Learning processes in community-led initiatives, which may be formal or informal, take place at all levels: within task groups implementing specific projects, in the ongoing development of any local initiative, and in the emergence and operations of the wider networks that link and support initiatives at regional, national and international scales.

The CfF Learn working group supports these aims through activities in several areas:

  • Liaising and consulting closely with member organisations to help understand, articulate and seek to address their needs concerning access to and usage of information
  • Developing shared resources for the generation, documentation and communication of relevant knowledge, collectively forming a knowledge commons
  • Compiling, linking and finding synergies among relevant activities already undertaken by member organisations, particularly educational offerings and research-related activities
  • Supporting specialised members with expertise and standing in relevant fields to make these more readily available to organisations, initiatives and projects throughout the network
  • Initiating and joining new projects and help address documentation and reporting needs at all levels throughout our networks

Background

Knowledge and learning were among the key pillars identified in the ECOLISE soon after its formation in 2014, the other three pillars being communications, policy and enabling. The Learn domain builds upon prior work on the part of many ECOLISE founding members and is strengthened by the involvement of specialised members with core expertise in research and/or education. The research supports policy influencing and communication outreach to draw attention to positive impacts and solutions of community-led initiatives to a diversity of problems, particularly related to climate change and sustainability.

Challenges

Main page: Knowledge and learning challenges

Key background challenges relate to the inadequacy of existing dominant mechanisms and institutions for the creation and sharing of knowledge, which operate in a highly competitive environment marked by pressure to achieve markers of success hard to reconcile with the knowledge and learning interests, expertise and needs of community-led initiatives and networks. Experience suggests that these reflect a more fundamental culture clash between societal addiction to growth and obsession with separation and the ethical commitment of most community-led initiatives to sharing and cooperation.

Attempts to bridge this divide draw on the efforts of many community-led initiatives, networks and coordinating organisations and engaged and value-led approaches in academic research and education to which many ECOLISE specialised members are committed. These efforts focus on creating inclusive, adaptable, practice-relevant knowledge on an open-source basis and facilitating their use and ongoing development by user communities. Implementation raises specific challenges in terms of engagement, useability and maintenance, which the knowledge and learning working group is seeking to address.

Policy aspects

Main page: Knowledge and learning for policy