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Exploring the role of place-based knowledge

Author: Dr.Thomas Borén, Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University

The present report is an empirical analyses of a number of key case studies in the RELOCAL project. Using a comparative perspective, the report analyses a) the forms, expressions and ways of mobilizing local and place-based knowledge, b) the learning loops involved and c) discusses the flexibility and adaptability of the actions in relation to what role local and place-based knowledge has.

There were four main findings. Firstly, it was found that place-based development should benefit from a more thorough conceptualization of place-based knowledge. For the purposes of this report, the concepts of local knowledge on the one hand, and place-based knowledge on the other have provided substantial precision for the empirical analyses.

Secondly, the actions analyzed differ substantially in how they relate to knowledge. Most cases score high in both local knowledge and place-based knowledge. It can be inferred that many projects do have the organization in place for harboring learning, however, a number of projects are not prepared for continuous learning from all relevant actors.

Thirdly, the forms of mobilizing knowledge in the actions range from actions that have an explicit approach to including knowledge, to those that do it in forms that are implicit. In this context, ‘explicit’ signifies that mobilizing knowledge is an explicit part of the action itself, meaning that in the very founding ideas of the action there is an explicit aim to engage with knowledge production. On the other hand, implicit signifies that the project is not especially programmed to engage in mobilizing local or place-based knowledge. Most likely, the explicit approach is the most cost effective in the long term, but the implicit approach includes the important aspect of the professional independently finding the knowledge needed for project implementation. The study of the forms of mobilizing also assesses the categories of inclusion and exclusion as important. The study can moreover conclude that in relation to knowledge mobilization, informality plays a role and suggests that it is better to embrace informality in order to control it, than to try to mitigate informal relations.

Lastly, organizational learning is directly connected to communicative reasoning in the form of learning loops that engage with the knowledge of various actors. The organization of learning loops is central to flexibility and adaptability of development projects. There are also regional variations in the underpinning of the social organization of knowledge relations across Europe, the strengths of which should be recognized. The analyzed actions draw upon both vertical knowledge flows (across scale-levels) and horizontal flows (across space).

 

This report is part of work package 3 (WP 3) of the RELOCAL project and focuses on the role of local knowledge and on place-based knowledge in local governance practices. Besides the empirical grounds to devote a report to the knowledge factor in local governance practices there are also theoretical arguments. That is, in order to understand place-based development, the role of various types of knowledge plays an important part. The concept of place-based development is moreover underpinned by a growing discussion in policy research regarding the importance to widen the knowledge base for policy interventions, especially concerning place-based development strategies.

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