The knowledge field is expanding, with a burgeoning associated terminology. Apart from distinctions related to information and knowledge, terms including: Research Communication, Knowledge Mobilization, Brokering, Translation, Exchange and Intermediation, have gained currency in the past decade. The meaning of others has evolved, notably Knowledge Management.
Focusing on different terminology has masked one important point: that the actual functions described are all systemically related to each other and that the functions can provide real value in improving the efficiency, and accelerating the impact, of various initiatives. K* (KStar) was coined as an overarching concept, and as a useful shorthand to collectively describe the various aforementioned terms. The first global K* conference was convened by UNU-INWEH in April 2012: it brought together key experts from across the world, and from different sectors, to: try and reach mutual understanding; stall the fragmentation of the knowledge field; and avoid potential serial re-invention of the wheel.
Authored by a subset of conference participants, this K* concept paper draws together collective learning from the diverse case studies discussed during the conference as well as the conference itself. It offers common language and sets out the principles shared by all K* component functions and processes. Along with associated conference outputs, such as the draft K* Green Paper, it also provides a strong basis to address the issues referred to above. The draft of this concept paper was broadly distributed and discussed, including at two subsequent meetings related to Knowledge Management and Mobilization, one of which was organized by the World Bank. Consequently, it benefitted from an extensive crowd-sourced peer-review. An unexpected, and gratifying outcome was that a significant number and variety of organizations quickly began to use and refer to the concepts as they went about their business. Although many different organizations are looking at K*, and placing increasing emphasis on knowledge management and other K* activities, they are doing so in very different ways with diverse approaches, budgets and motivations. In addition, K* functions are often dispersed across organizations, therefore it is difficult to draw causal links between the activities of K* practitioners and improved outcomes of initiatives. We hope the paper serves to underscore the importance of K* functions, whether formal or informal.
We encourage readers to take the concepts outlined in this paper and to apply them in their own contexts and organizations. They will be able to do so with the added benefit of knowing, and being able to demonstrate, that others are saying the same things, despite using different language.