Looking to the future by digging up the past – capturing and disseminating tacit knowledge

WALTON, Peter (2015) Looking to the future by digging up the past – capturing and disseminating tacit knowledge. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2015 - Cape Town, South Africa in Session 150 - Agricultural Libraries SIG.

Bookmark or cite this item: https://library.ifla.org/id/eprint/1252
Language: English (Original)
Available under licence Creative Commons Attribution.


Looking to the future by digging up the past – capturing and disseminating tacit knowledge

In the past, it was customary for the findings of agricultural research to be packaged into extension materials, and extended to farmers via the extension workers. In the Pacific, the degrading of government-led extension and advisory has happened at the same time as a decline in print publications. In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of social media initiatives all intended to better communicate with the public, among which are the farmers. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that this is not helping the farmers. There is similarly a lack of evidence that this is equipping extension workers with a good knowledge base, and there is also the loss of knowledge and experience as researchers and extension officers age retire. No attempt has been made to capture what is called ‘tacit knowledge’: information and knowledge known to an individual by virtue of their experience, lessons learned and knowledge gained, the loss of which is guaranteed to ensure that lessons learned are lost, and the wheel is reinvented. To address these issues, the author has been involved in two activities in Solomon Islands. In the first activity, a procedure was proposed to try and use the collective wisdom of a group of researchers and technical extension people, in the form of a writeshop to put together extension fact sheets. The focus was on capturing content, irrespective of its eventual packaging. The second activity was the preparation of a manual to address severe problems in the country with cocoa contamination. In undertaking this activity, it became clear that the published information was contradictory and, in many respects, lacking in critical detail and this despite decades of research and development. The only way to address this was by engaging in an activity to capture tacit knowledge. At the end of that period, there was much improved content, based on lived experience over many years. The search is now on to find a way beyond a print-based resource to manage the content that has been acquired. In the meantime, lessons have been learned about what can help this process along, the principal lesson being the need to better manage and share content, and to do so strategically.

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