Knowledge Mobilization (KMb): Multiple Contributions & Multi-Production Of New Knowledge

Overcoming Wicked Problems

One of the unfortunate contradictions of our time is that we have more knowledge and the ability to share our knowledge faster with greater numbers of people in the world than ever in our history – and yet we still have poverty, homelessness, climate change, hatred and war. These harms are referred to by social scientists as wicked problems.

It’s pretty amazing to think about the vast amount of knowledge that we have available to us to share with billions of people to make the world a better place than ever in the history of humanity.  Social media, for example, gives us huge amounts of knowledge – global knowledge to share, to share more quickly, to translate more easily – and yet, these social problems still exist.

We can communicate with people anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice, and we have almost instantaneous access to knowledge that years ago would have taken a long time to receive or translate – but what is the purpose of sharing knowledge so quickly, what is the purpose of sharing knowledge if we still can’t overcome these wicked problems?

These are questions I ask myself quite frequently. Why are we still grappling with these wicked problems if we have the ability to share knowledge so much easier today? What is the connection between shared knowledge and wicked problems? Ultimately, I think it comes down to the deeply ingrained human failings of greed, control and abusive power. Will such human failings ever be eliminated? Probably not. Does that mean we should just give up? Certainly not. For those who want to continue to be part of the solution and not the problem -the answers are social innovation and knowledge mobilization.

Social innovation is finding new ways to address persistent social, cultural or environmental challenges. Knowledge mobilization is the process of sharing knowledge for social benefit.

We’ve heard that old saying knowledge is power. I think this an out-dated understanding of power that needs to go. It’s time to replace this old selfish notion with sharing knowledge is power – but in the sense of a collective power for social benefit for all humanity. It’s the way we share our knowledge that’s important.

How do we share our knowledge?  How do we use social media? To communicate understanding? To spread peace, love and compassion? To focus on eliminating poverty, homelessness, hatred or war? Or do we try to control the many things that we think we need to control – promoting ideologies and doctrines that are more divisive than inclusive? Sometimes we spend so much of our knowledge and energy selfishly wasting time or trying to control things and other people that we end up seeming like we have power or “the truth”. Forget about “the truth”. Truth is different for everyone. Sharing knowledge to create understanding and overall social benefit is what brings us together.

Until we can overcome the things that divide us, we are still powerless – we only seem to have power but our energies are still misdirected. When we find positive ways to share our knowledge for overall social benefit we can begin to eliminate wicked problems, and the more we’re able to do so – as each person recognizes our collective humanity – the more our knowledge will grow, and the less wicked problems will occur . . . it’s one of those very positive cycles that only each of us contributing together for everyone on this planet can put into motion.
We all have the knowledge of what needs to be done to overcome wicked problems – even in the very face of otherwise overwhelming human impulses.  What are you doing to share this knowledge to overcome wicked problems?

19 responses to “Overcoming Wicked Problems

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