Intermediaries are a powerful force for social change

March 6, 2009

An affirmation of the potential contribution of knowledge and information intermediaries to social change is one of the outcomes of the Between Ourselves workshop. The workshop report identifies 5 insights about the role of intermediary work and how it can be strengthened.

The workshop was the second meeting of the I-K-Mediary Group an emerging network of research intermediaries who work to increase access to and use of research in development contexts by providing portals, gateways or reporting services.   Key insights and outcomes from the workshop were as follows:

1. Information and knowledge intermediary work is a powerful force for social change
The conference and workshop illustrated the range of roles that intermediaries can play; the diversity of contexts in which the role is being played and the range of stakeholders affected. Intermediary work can enhance information flows between actors, stimulate demand for information and maintain access to information over time.

2. Different roles for knowledge and information intermediaries: ‘just in case’ and ‘just in time’
During the Power of In-between conference, some intermediaries identified the need to go beyond playing a “repository” role for information if they want to achieve their objectives around informing policy and practice processes. They argued that proactive communication and engagement with stakeholders are necessary. Exploration during the workshop found both roles were required; characterised as just in-case and just-in-time. In some cases one organisation can play both roles, in other cases collaboration between people with feet in different camps and skills to match is just as effective.

3. We need a greater understanding of the actors we serve and their role in policy processes
A deep understanding of the actors we seek to reach and the changes we seek to bring for them is necessary if we are to contribute effectively to greater use of evidence in policy and practice. This understanding should drive all of our work, from strategy level thinking, to website design, editorial policy and monitoring and evaluation.

4. Collaboration between people undertaking intermediary work is a central means of achieving our objectives
At both the workshop and conference there was an emerging sense of a sector; one that would be stronger with greater common identity, shared understandings, values and standards, and one whose members collaborate to realise their objectives. From benchmarking our work in comparison to each other, joint investigations into impact to content sharing; collaboration between intermediaries in different spheres was an ongoing theme.

5. Willingness to work together to create structures for shared learning and collaboration
At the end of the workshop, participants affirmed their commitment to continue working together and to creating the means for doing so. We agreed to develop the I-K-Mediary Group from an informal network towards a formal I-K-Mediary Programme. Individuals from 10 organisations volunteered to be part of a Core Group to develop a vision and mission, design a programme that will meet the needs of the broader group and to seek the funding to make it a reality.

The full report of the workshop containing discussions on conceptual, technical, editorial and monitoring and evaluation aspects of intermediary work is at: Between Ourselves: Report from the second meeting of the I-K-Mediary Group  July 2008, Centurion, South Africa

The evaluation of the workshop is also available to download here

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