Brain powerCultural awareness in KMKM in international developmentSystems and complexity

Three initiatives that are helping to address the global knowledge imbalance

This article is part two ongoing series of articles: cultural awareness in KM and KM in international development.

As I revealed in a previous RealKM Magazine article, if the world is mapped according to how many scientific research papers each country produces, it takes on the bizarre, uneven appearance above. Note the bloated size of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe compared to South America and in particular Africa.

This is a serious issue, because it means that what many would regard as globally universal behaviours and processes can’t actually be considered as such on the basis of the available evidence. Concerningly, practices and approaches developed from research in what have come to be known as WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic) contexts can be culturally incompatible or inappropriate in other settings.

Previous RealKM Magazine articles have also highlighted the important role of indigenous knowledge in strategies to address the global knowledge imbalance, and that indigenous languages are critically linked to indigenous knowledge.

As awareness of the global knowledge imbalance grows, initiatives aimed at helping to address it are starting to emerge. Three notable examples are the Citing Africa podcast series, Wuṉḏaŋarr Yolŋu Gurruu (Strong Yolŋu Families) resource, and 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Citing Africa

The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) recently launched the Citing Africa podcast project, which is:

  • investigating the decline of Africa-based contributions in top international academic journals
  • providing practical guidance to young scholars seeking to publish their own work
  • taking a critical look at the wider context of knowledge production about the African continent.

The first podcast in the series of nine episodes was made available in early March, and the remaining episodes will be added in the coming weeks.

Wuṉḏaŋarr Yolŋu Gurruu

Australia’s ABC News reports on the publication of a “Breakthrough resource to teach whitefellas about reality of life in Arnhem Land.”

The ARDS Aboriginal Corporation has produced the new Wuṉḏaŋarr Yolŋu Gurruu (Strong Yolŋu Families) booklet to guide non-indigenous practitioners in their work with Yolŋu people affected by family violence. It provides advice on working in ways that are culturally safe and socially accountable, alerting that:

breaking cycles of violence and finding restorative pathways requires a strengths-based approach centred on gurruṯu (kinship). A strengths-based approach acknowledges the cultural mismatch between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and dominant Western systems, and seeks ways to work with and build on the strengths of Indigenous cultures.

2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages

The United Nations has declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL2019), in recognition of the crucial role of indigenous languages in indigenous culture and knowledge systems:

Of the almost 7,000 existing languages, the majority have been created and are spoken by indigenous peoples who represent the greater part of the world’s cultural diversity.

Yet many of these languages are disappearing at an alarming rate, as the communities speaking them are confronted with assimilation, enforced relocation, educational disadvantage, poverty, illiteracy, migration and other forms of discrimination and human rights violations.

Given the complex systems of knowledge and culture developed and accumulated by these local languages over thousands of year, their disappearance would amount to losing a kind of cultural treasure. It would deprive us of the rich diversity they add to our world and the ecological, economic and sociocultural contribution they make.

Header image source: Juan Pablo Alperin.


Also published on Medium.

Bruce Boyes

Bruce Boyes (www.bruceboyes.info) is editor, lead writer, and a director of the award-winning RealKM Magazine (www.realkm.com) and currently also teaches in the University of NSW (UNSW) Foundation Studies program in China. He has expertise and experience in a wide range of areas including knowledge management (KM), environmental management, program and project management, writing and editing, stakeholder engagement, communications, and research. Bruce holds a Master of Environmental Management with Distinction and a Certificate of Technology (Electronics). With a demonstrated ability to identify and implement innovative solutions to social and ecological complexity, Bruce's many career highlights include establishing RealKM Magazine as an award-winning resource for knowledge managers, using agile and knowledge management approaches to oversee the implementation of an award-winning $77.4 million river recovery program in western Sydney on time and under budget, leading a knowledge strategy process for Australia's 56 natural resource management (NRM) regional organisations, pioneering collaborative learning and governance approaches to support communities to sustainably manage landscapes and catchments, and initiating and teaching two new knowledge management subjects at Shanxi University in China.

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