Knowledge is power. Despite the extent to which the world's regions have become increasingly interconnected, access to knowledge and information continues to be a barrier to equitable and sustainable social development. Amidst today's complex and interconnected social and ecological problems, local people need to be able to effectively assess, revalorize and mobilize their own knowledge, skills and traditions, and to adapt these by incorporating other forms of know-how, both local and scientific. We believe this process of exchange, within and between different local groups, and between local people, scientists and other social actors, is essential in order to allow local communities to respond creatively and effectively to the dramatic process of social and ecological change that envelops them. People and Plants has a long history of involvement in this process, developing and using a wide range of tools (manuals, audiovisual resource packs, radio, theatre, games, etc.) in order to catalyze productive exchanges between individuals, communities and groups, and enable the diffusion of valuable scientific and technical knowledge. Knowledge Exchange is a cross-cutting Program, interfacing with all of our other programs, and works in different regions and at different scales.
Strengthening resource management training programs within indigenous universities
Over the past decade, countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia have developed new programs and institutions for higher education and training of ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples. These institutions and programs serve as a bridge between indigenous and western concepts of science and learning. Rather than undermine indigenous capacities, as past efforts to ‘educate’ indigenous groups often have, these initiatives explicitly seek to strengthen and complement indigenous skills, practices, and knowledge. The intercultural and strongly applied orientation of such initiatives can help local populations develop the adaptive skills and endogenous resources necessary to respond to the grave social and environmental problems that threaten their viability and that of the biocultural diversity which sustains them. PPI has been working with a number of these institutions in Africa, Australia, China and Latin America, strenghtening their existing programs and helping to create new courses, teaching materials and curricula. Click here to learn more about our recent work in Mexico with several local partners to support teaching and capacity-building among indigenous students in the states of Puebla, Veracruz and Guerrero in Central Mexico.
Local-to-local exchanges: promoting social development through knowledge sharing
The Knowledge Exchange Program promotes exchanges between local groups, encouraging them to share experiences, knowledge, skills and know-how relating to natural resource use, trade, management, health and well-being, and rights. Using an innovative assortment of approaches, from meetings and workshops to written, audio-visual and performance-based communication, the program enables local people to learn from each other, and from the past. To learn more, see some of our Community manuals (Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia) and video exchanges (Ese Eja, Bolivia and Peru; Video and grassroots indigenous mobilization, Peru; Linking indigenous people in Madre de Dios and Palawan, Peru and Phillipines).
Returning Research Results: Making scientific research useful to local communities
Scientific research can play a key role in helping local communities adapt to change, both by securing their roles in the stewardship of local resources and by addressing key problems related to their well-being and livelihoods. It can also provide new information and approaches that reinforce or complement existing forms of traditional knowledge, resource governance and management. However, scientific research on bio-cultural diversity is often not designed, executed, or communicated to local groups in ways that are useful to them. In support of the International Society of Ethnobiology's Code of Ethics, the Knowledge Exchange Program - along with all of PPI's research and field programs - works to ensure that the research process and products arising from research are respectful of, and relevant to, local people. We produce innovative materials in accessible formats which are directly useful to local resource managers, including community manuals, posters and videos. Read more about our recent Survey of dissemination practices within the academic community, our upcoming Manual on Returning Results, and our related work in Conservation and managed habitats, Health and Habitat, and Cultural landscape mapping.
Making policy work in practice
Like scientific knowledge, policies, laws and regulations are profoundly important to local resource users and managers, yet too often policies affect communities in negative ways through enforcement and prohibitions. At the same time, policies that impact rural populations are often poorly crafted with limited or no input from these groups, and in ways that undermine sustainability, customary legal systems and promote inequity.
PPI works to help local stakeholders understand the implications of policy and to use policy frameworks more effectively and in ways which strengthen their well-being, rights and abilities. It also seeks to better inform governments of the impacts of their policies, help local voices reach policy-makers and promote more effective and fair policy development and implementation.
Local to global exchanges: scaling up
An inherent assumption in all PPI activities is that the complex nature of social and environmental problems are best addressed through carefully designed, small-scale interventions that strengthen local institutions, knowledge, and practices. However, there is also an important responsibility to extend and scale-up what is learned in order to have a wider impact on the relationship between science and local groups.
PPI's Knowledge Exchange activities seek to raise awareness and change practices of scientists, funders, NGOs and others, by providing methods, lessons, and assistance with the design and execution of effective and ethical research, including the exchange of research results in ways that are useful to local communities. One of the ways we do this is through the publication of best-practice guidelines and manuals, aimed at science manager and policy makers.
Knowledge exchange tools: books, manuals, guides, posters and videos
PPI collaborators have a long commitment and experience developing a diverse range of tools and materials for knowledge communication and exchange; some of these seek to encourage communication and exchange within and among local peoples, others have been designed to help democratize access to technical information and scientific knowledge, to sensitize policy makers and government officials, or to help train a new generation of applied ethnoecologists in bio-culturally diverse regions.
Some of the manuals produced by PPI seek to disseminate valuable scientific research results to groups who normally do not have access to the specialized journals or to the language used by scientists to communicate the results of their findings. Others have been used by communities to disseminate, or in some instances control, the use of their knowledge. A number of hands-on technical manuals have also been developed to help local groups better manage resources, or to negotiate with commercial and government representatives interested in local resources and lands. Several of our manuals have been translated into different languages and have been extensively used by students, technicians and policy-makers to better understand many of the complex issues surrounding biocultural diversity and plant resource management. For a selected list of downloadable titles click here.
Audiovisual resource packs
Several of PPI's collaborators have pioneered the used of video technology and desktop editing as a tool for community development and training in matters relating to resource rights, use and management. Besides producing a wide range of audiovisual resources designed to strengthen local capacities for social, health or ecological well-being, PPI staff and affiliates have also trained an extensive network of local video practitioners using accessible digital video editing technology. For more information on PPIs audiovisual resource packs and use of video, click here.
Posters, maps and photo guides
Using art, digital photography and cartography, PPI collaborators have produced a wide-range of materials designed to assist in the transmission of technical or socially-valued knowledge, in ways that underscores and recognizes the value and importance of visual, as opposed to written, forms of communication. For more information click here.
PPI Books and the People and Plants Conservation Series
Building on the extensive and highly utilized series of technical manuals and books produced by the People and Plants Initiative, and drawing on the rich experience and expertise of its collaborators, PPI is continuously producing new titles on cutting-edge and important topics and issues, presenting information and offering guidelines in a clear, comprehensive yet accessible way. For a list of titles and for more information, click here.
Policy briefs and journal articles
Policy briefs are developed in order to distill lessons learned into forms that are easily used by policy-makers and others. In 2010 a policy brief on Wild Product Governance was produced in collaboration with the UNU, CIFOR, University of Cape Town, and Institute for Culture and Ecology. This included recommendations for more effective governance of non-timber forest products. Policy briefs are also developed for meetings associated with the Convention on Biological Diversity and other international policy processes. For more information see Policy and Trade.
For a list of academic publications on issues relating to knowledge exchange across groups and scales click here.
PPI Working Papers
For a list of titles, more information and access to a wide range of technical papers and reports by PPI collaborators, click here