I am exploring a hunch and will find arguments both for and against it to see if I can claim to prove or disprove my hunch. The hunch is: there is politics of results not just evidence but results. This is evident when we try and establish a goal: whose goals? who will decide what results can be produced? The importance of establishing and pursing specific goals is clear to everyone however what result we seek and measure is a political decision. Whose politics you ask? The politics of those who seek to measure it, the politics of those who fund it, the politics of those who are the subjects of the intervention.

An insightful paper by Charles Kenny and Andy Sumner highlights that increased aid from developed nations to developing countries was not directly linked to performance and results, and it is much more difficult to know whether it had the desired impact overall. The paper also makes  a very strong case for any new MDG-like agenda needing “targets that are set realistically and directly link aid flows to social policy change and to results”. So this question of politics of results in my opinion is extremely important to discuss.

Whose results get tracked and how is highly political. If one were to just look at the most recent progress chart prepared by UNDP (the agency charged with reporting on progress toward achieving the MDGs) what gets measured under goal 8 is internet users (!!). There is no numerical target for financial aid or any other aspect of developed/rich countries’ assistance being tracked under that goal, in contrast to the highly specific poverty-related targets set for developing countries. Of course it is not to say that poverty reduction is not the primary goal for every country (rich or poor), however what gets tracked and hence reported are clearly political.

If we use the rights based approach to development then shouldn’t the same apply to determining and measuring results, if so can this approach in some way overcome the politics of results? Recently, I was listening to Diane Elson and Radhika talk about economic policy today geared towards achieving economic growth, underwritten by assumptions about the virtues of the market. Efficiency rather than ethics has been the focus of concern. Yet, the means adopted to achieve economic growth have been responsible for undermining goals in the domain of human rights. It is time to assess economic policy using the ethical lens of the human rights standards that all governments have agreed upon. Their work shows how we can rethink macroeconomic strategies from a human rights perspective, with a focus on economic and social rights, which is also the topic of their recent book Economic Policy and Human Rights: Holding Governments to Accounts.

So we if use the rights based approach to determining economic policy, shouldn’t the rights based approach be applied to what we measure and how we measure it? Do we not consider differences of context when we choose the indicators and results to measure?

Recently I have been tormented by the cultural dimensions of what one considers ‘sharing’. Here, by culture I mean the difference that is due to where we are from, “the beliefs, customs, practices, and social behavior of a particular nation or people”. I intend to distinguish it from organizational culture as I think that is subculture which is a product of many cultures trying to co-exist, while the other is inherent to us as individuals.

The more global in nature our work environment is the more we assume that we learn the culture of the organization but not necessarily pay enough emphasis on the culture of our contexts which is much larger than that of the organization and plays a role in how we interpret and reshape the organizational culture. This is particularly important when we think of sharing and particularly knowledge sharing. In a multi-cultural (global) context this becomes more obvious when we are confronted with people from another culture that we become aware that our patterns of behavior are not universal.

Within this background I think its important to adopt what sociologists use when studying societies, called relativistic approach. For sociologists within the relativistic perspective, diversity, not consensus, is the central fact of social life. People and groups often have competing or conflicting interests rather than shared interests and goals. I think it is important to consider this approach particularly in the context of sharing. Because if you understand how people from one culture share then you can build systems, mechanism, incentives and technology that allows for greater sharing.

Here I am not at all referring to the concepts of cultural preservation, “Cultures are not museum pieces, to be preserved intact at all costs” (Nussbaum, 1999, p. 37). However, what I do think we often miss is the cultural sensitivity to predisposition in sharing of knowledge that are important determinants in both the success and adoption of any systems/processes institutionalized for systematizing knowledge sharing.

As I prod through my own thinking around this and perhaps the contradictions that exist in this thinking I hope to arrive at a place where I am able to articulate ‘how’ I think it can be done as opposed to the challenges currently we face.

Post Navigation