From the work we are carrying out in various countries and regions, it seems increasingly clear that the combination of learning alliances and resource centres is powerful.
Learning alliances are great to dive into a specific topic and invite various types of stakeholders to cover it from various angles, so as to embed it in the local context, pool resources, promote and guarantee improved policy and practice (on the topic handled)… However they usually generate a lot of resources and ideas that are not always analysed, consolidated and disseminated beyond the learning alliance group.
On the other hand, resource centres provide a central point of contact for information that matters for sector stakeholders. By consolidating and disseminating information, resource centres ensure that information that is relevant to a group of stakeholders indeed reaches them. But resource centres are not only about information management, they are also about knowledge sharing, and particularly connecting actors and networks together to make sure that information flows more freely to find its most helpful application.
It is in this light that a number of activities and initiatives could help to raise the profile (and respectability) of a resource centre network:
- While learning alliances focus among others on bringing about and scaling up innovations, resource centre networks would be well advised to synthesise existing information and making it available in a compelling format. A lot of useful information goes unnoticed, probably because of a natural tendency not to look at the past and because of another natural tendency to start on one’s own basis (the quest for immortality, claiming innovations…). It appears perhaps not as rewarding to look back at existing information and synthesising it but it helps ground the work, avoid mistakes from the past and avoid yet an additional waste of resources.
- Learning alliances usually come with a series of capacity development activities that really fit the purposes of their focus area (e.g. integrated water resource management, financing the health sector etc.). Resource centre networks could on the other hand use synthesised information to link it with existing capacity development initiatives and institutes and bridge capacity gaps by using good quality information.
- Finally, resource centre networks would be informed to connect as much as possible with national priorities to justify their focus on the key areas of governmental programmes. Usually one or more governmental agencies are present in the RC network but if this is not the case, it is essential for network members to develop a policy engagement strategy to make itself useful to public authorities. These are but three ways of justifying the value of resource centre networks, and I will keep on reporting about some of the choices made by partner networks to illustrate these ideas.
For the coming weeks, however, I will leave resource centre networks aside and focus on learning alliances with the upcoming developments:
- The results of the learning alliance session at the World Water Forum;
- A consolidated information package on learning alliances that will involve a number of IRC staff and partners.
- A consolidated information package and perhaps a tool box on process documentation (in support of learning alliance processes), fresh with the recent insights from the WASHCost workshop (see my previous blog about this).