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Towards a locally led response?

Local Knowledge

A core concept in disaster management is ‘Local Knowledge’. However, ‘Local Knowledge’ is different from what local people actually know and think. This article explores how 'Local Knowledge' is constructed as an artefact for disaster management to inform and justify decisions and actions - with the paradoxical effect of side-lining genuine local understandings from the response.   


A critical perspective on 'Local Knowledge'

In project management, the process of accessing, filtering, and translating knowledge from multiple sources into data and information is called knowledge management (KM). Organisations use KM to inform decision-making, influence policies, and promote learning. Some disaster management organizations turn to local knowledge to develop initiatives that are tailored to local circumstances, working with local capabilities rather than against them. However, the local knowledge that gets constructed through KM is an artefact for project management: it is not the same as what local people actually know and think. Moreover, since it is created through a social process, it is influenced by power imbalances and social hierarchies. This article argues that, unless active counter measures are taken, ‘local knowledge’ may drive disaster management decisions that unintentionally (re)create inequalities in risk in society.

Please cite as follows:

Mulder, F. (2023). Localizing humanitarian knowledge management: A call for pragmatic robust action. In Reimagining Civil Society Collaborations in Development (pp. 219-232). Routledge.

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