The Dutch Knowledge Platforms are said to “have gold in their hands”. A recently concluded learning review provides insight into the achievements and added value of the five Knowledge Platforms since their kick-off three years ago.
The Platforms were established following the Kennisbrief that was sent to Parliament in 2011 by the then Dutch State Secretary for Development Cooperation, Mr Ben Knapen. The Platforms have been structured around five strategic themes for development cooperation: food and nutrition security; sexual and reproductive health and rights; security and rule of law; water for development; and inclusive development policies.
While the Knowledge Platforms are diverse in their organization and strategy, the reviewers identify common “gems”, such as the multi-stakeholder approach that lies at the core of their institutional strategy. The Platforms do not operate in a vacuum. Instead, they are positioned among a diverse range of actors: ministries, NGOs, research institutes, consultancies, businesses, and more. As such, their existence does not only serve to fulfil only the needs of the Dutch government, but rather provides a meaningful way to take stock of multiple and varied perspectives in order to pursue a greater good. The learning review highlights further achievements of the Platforms, including their convening power and their unique ability to address emerging and contested issues.
According to the review, the Platforms also offer an opportunity to move towards more institutionalized knowledge relations. The conception of the Platforms was prefaced by the identification of specific gaps in knowledge creation, exchange, and use in the Dutch development sector.. Significant lacunae included a lack of focus and coherence in research programming, weak relations between different stakeholders, and fragmented use of knowledge by ministries and other practitioners. The Platforms have so far been most successful in knowledge creation and exchange, while knowledge use remains a tough nut to crack. Nevertheless, the review shows that the foundations are in place to get ‘knowledge to work’ for the stakeholders involved.
Internationally, the Dutch approach to knowledge brokering has been well-received. International stakeholders have increasingly expressed interest to learn more about the added value of such an innovative approach to the development sector.