K4D Agenda


In April 2017, a Knowledge for Development: Global Partnership Conference will be held at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva. A highlight of the conference will be the presentation of the Agenda Knowledge for Development, including a set of Knowledge for Development Goals, which are intended to complement the Sustainable Development Goals by focusing on knowledge and knowledge societies.

The Organizing Committee of the conference is gathering brief statements from experts about their visions on knowledge for development. In February 2017, the committee asked me for my statement. My statement is reproduced below.


Serafin D. Talisayon

Community and Corporate Learning for Innovation, Inc.

Philippines; 25 February 2017

About 70% of Gross World Product is now being created from knowledge; the rest is from extraction or growing and processing of natural resources. A related fact is the long-term trend discernible even before World War II: the increasing share of the services sector – which is most knowledge-intensive – in national GDPs. Knowledge has already been increasingly fueling economic growth worldwide. What then do we mean by "knowledge for development"?

Let us look at some evidence. 

In the Philippines, we studied over 900+ anti-poverty projects. We selected ten best practices and asked the question: what were their success ingredients? Our findings surprised us: provision of external funding by itself is not the answer. Provision or sharing of knowledge or technology is not the answer. The common success ingredient is that the projects leveraged on existing intangible assets that local communities already have. Intangible assets include: human capital among men and women, social capital e.g. working relationships, cultural capital or practices and beliefs favorable to the project, supportive relationships with outside institutions, access to local natural resources, etc. 

We discovered a new way of understanding why the famous Grameen model worked well.

We realized that many so-called "poor" communities are wealthy in terms of intangible assets. The label "poor" came from outsiders – including development workers like myself – outsiders who only see and count money, land, infrastructure, equipment and other tangible assets. 

After a decade as national chair of the UNDP Small Grants Programme I led a team to study the success factors in the best ten among 100+ community-based sustainable development projects UNDP had funded. We asked the best-practitioners the question: what is “success” to you? We were again surprised. Here is one answer: “Success is not in cleaning up litter and garbage. Success is when community members realize and learn, and thus stop throwing litter and garbage.” To them, success is not about sustainable development indicators; success is an internal change among the people.

Knowledge for development should start with self-examination of mindsets and frameworks among development workers. 

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