Monday, April 20, 2015

Of Reading and Documentation in Development Sector

In every field of endeavor, the one who reaches the pinnacle will be found to have built upon the knowledge and experience of someone who preceded him. People in development sector feel obliged to submit report to donor organization with complete focus on grants.There are suggestions from the expensive government project reports that end up just gathering dust on a shelf in India. Thousands, of reports on policy, poverty and development issues are released each year world wide. A lot of recommendations, solutions and findings are keep on piling in a PDF version. The citation of paper doesn't imply that it has been read. Even the reader looked only at downloads and citations to gauge the use of these report. The key question that comes in mind: Who will ever read them?

Even world bank is pondering over this question (Which World Bank reports are widely read ?) Recent findings suggest my fears:


The researchers contribute to their discipline's knowledge with the deep optimism of shaping decision making ability of the practitioners. However, practitioners very rarely read articles published in peer-reviewed journals. One of the ironies of development sector has been that researchers have envied practitioners and practitioners have undermined the academia. Practitioners label reports as long, boring, incomprehensible jargon and full of technical language.

Knowledge sharing takes place in many different settings—through seminars, presentations, & blogs. The slow pace and complexity of poverty, gender and development meant that the blog is more for enthusiasts and casual readers. In the eyes of detractors, such trend leads to the the art of reading the superficial books and blogs. But we must look for a long term vision and expanding the base of readers. The popular and easy will boost people's reading list, among many of whom are working with limited knowledge even with high literacy levels. These readers can gradually move towards domain oriented journals. Journals are essentials but have limited ability for the academia to engage people with all types of opinion ranging from stupid to innovative. There is an urgent need to promote new ways to increase impact and spread of the knowledge.

Why don't we see more books/films/blogs like this coming out of development? They do exist; we just have to seek them out and make them available for more than handful of readers. Practical knowledge is interdisciplinary, not confined to narrow pockets of domain. There is an open-access movement in access of journals that will allow practitioners from reading and understanding them. Through books, op-ed and blogs, there can be reach to a wider set of practitioners, journalists, citizens, students, entrepreneurs, civil society experts and other development actors. Even the most talented thinkers have to reach masses for shaping future's public debates or influencing policies. A good idea need to see the light of day. Only the eloquence and wisdom of the author's passion in writing can lead to the compelling reach of such idea for mass audience.

Still and all, most books published in the private market have few readers, most music fails to reach an audience, and most movies fail. Any popular medium of spreading knowledge like blog is no exception of this rule. However, marvelous an idea may be – cannot, on their own change very much the widespread believes. Working in isolation strongly holds back progressive causes and the effectiveness of enlightened minds and seasoned practitioners.

I have written a blog on list of books and list of movies aimed to spread basic ideas to all rather than tiny size of the intended audience. One can look for Understanding Economic Development Reading List by Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India, Arvind Subramanian. Suggested Blogs for those who are still interested :

Organizations : World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Oxfam, CGAP , IFMR.
Academician : Illa Patnaik, Swaminomics, Ajay Shah. Tyler Cowen.
Practitioners :  Arvind Kumar, PMRDF.
Magazines : Down to Earth, India Together .

4 comments:

  1. List of movies page no more exists.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. http://rmstudent.blogspot.in/2013/06/suggested-viewing-for-rural-manager.html ye page hai

      Delete

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