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The Knowledge for Development course is not intended to be a packaged, pre-cooked dinner to be eaten after heating it in the microwave. On the contrary, given the multifacetted and complex role of knowledge for development(1) that challenges international scholars, organisations and development practitioners alike, the course is designed rather as a hazardous journey of joint inquiry. The students are invited to immerge themselves into two academic currents to equip themselves for the journey: (1) knowledge systems thinking, to enable them to discern and understand the way social actors engage with each other to create value from knowledge; and (2) soft systems thinking, to achieve an understanding of what can be done about improving it. Complementary literature on social inquiry and change and change management in large scale organisations will be consulted, as well as the work of international organisations on global policy implications. The course maintains that in order to achieve development objectives, the focus of our interest should be on innovation, i.e. the process by which development actors create value from knowledge in their societies, by interactively designing, creating and maintaining changes in the way they go about their daily practices.


The purpose of the Knowledge for Development Course is for the students to deepen their understanding of the way in which social actors engage, inquire and learn to innovate. Innovation is understood as the process by which social actors create value from knowledge. Such value can be of significance to themselves, individually or collectively, to their community or their society; it is explicitly not limited to value in economic terms, it can be natural, cultural, social, organisational or institutional as well. Value can of course be created in the private as well as in the public domain.


A key concept throughout the course is networking for innovation, i.e. the practice of social inquiry, learning and change by which social actors interactively create value fromknowledge. It provides the foundation for understanding how the emergence of particular institutional configurations stimulate or on the contrary suffocate innovation. Yet it also provides the building blocks for understanding when and how value added networks can help create ‘hotspots’ in local and global knowledge systems to stimulate innovation and change. The course will invite the students to look at two practical, participatory approaches that have been developed and tested in practice to help facilitate the creation
of such networks in practice.


Learning outcomes expected


After the course, students have gained insight in the social organisation of innovation; the way multiple actors interact and contribute to creating value from knowledge; they are able to identify who are the main actors in a particular context; what are the different types of knowledge relevant to development and how to study the knowledge systems that govern their generation, distribution and use. They have gained an understanding of the existing asymmetries in global knowledge systems; their impact upon development objectives and what possible courses of action can be taken at the local, national and international levels to overcome these. They will have acquired practical knowledge on some of the tools that exist for action-research on facilitating innovation for development.


Course work


The course consists of 10 sessions of approximately 2 hours each. The lecturer will not treat the reading materials fully during lecture, as students are expected to have read the corresponding materials beforehand. The introductory lecture will treat complementary issues - conceptual, methodological, policy and/or practical - related to the subject at hand. During each session two students will be invited to react as referents. Questions about the reading materials can be brought forward during the discussions afterwards. Besides participating in the sessions, students will act as referent to subjects presented at least twice; will participate in one ongoing subgroup assignment; will write a brief individual research paper and participate in a short written examination. The objectives of the course require creative thinking and pro-active participation; students are expected to combine a sharp intellectual performance in study and group discussions with a constructive effort, and practical input into group work and group dynamics.


The sessions generally combine lectures, discussions and group work, as follows(2):
1. Lecture & discussion:
a. Introductory presentation (about 20 minutes);
b. Brief personal comments and discussion questions raised to the subject by
first referent on the basis of the lecture’s reading material (5 minutes);
c. Brief personal comments and discussion questions raised by second
referent on the basis of chosen background reading material (5 minutes);
d. Discussion & debate (about 30 minutes)
2. Group work:
a. Presentations of group/individual work (some 20 minutes)
b. Discussion (some 40 minutes)


Individual research paper


By means of a five page individual research paper, students are encouraged to dive deeper into the subject, on a topic of their choice. For those who would like to join efforts with others, a general subject is suggested (see p. 15). The paper should consist of (1) a well-defined (action-) research question; (2) a literature scan and review of some strands related to the subject; (3) findings - in terms of answers to the research question - and (4) suggestions - in terms of what to do next. The paper can not be more than 3000 words and has to be submitted on 22nd of November at the latest.


Individual assessment


The individual assessment of the student’s performance during the course is a weighted average that takes into account: active participation in analysis and discussions (15%); individual assignments as first and second referent (15%); performance in small group assignment (20%); individual paper (30%) and individual written exam (20%).



(1) Note that the concept development is taken in its scientific, not its institutional meaning. Development is understood to refer to the way in which people, communities and societies evolve over time; it presupposes that the choices they make somehow affect their chances for survival. The empirical study of development is therefore not geographically or economically limited to so-called developing countries or poor communities. In fact, in this course a comparative perspective between vastly different countries and continents will be encouraged. When development is referred to in a more narrow sense, as in the UN Millennium Declaration, this will be specified in the text.

(2) Exact timing may vary….in particular the second hour may vary with the length of the assignments…

Copyright 2013, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource. Syllabus. (2007, December 22). Retrieved October 28, 2013, from UN University OCW Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Creative Commons License