Recognising and harnessing tacit knowledge as a key factor in community development: A new approach
Tacit knowledge is that which cannot be easily conveyed to others or systematically learned (Chugh, 2015); it is the knowledge that an individual has, often unique to them, which has been learned by doing and experiencing (Schmidt & Hunter, 1993). This paper explores the application of this knowledge in the context of community development and highlights how tacit knowledge is often either ignored entirely or regarded as less important than formal qualifications. This can be heavily detrimental to minority groups and women working in community development spheres.
Using a micro-ethnography approach (Wolcott, 1990) that includes developing and using theory of change models (Clark & Taplin, 2012), this piece explores the role that local Development Workers play in a United Kingdom-wide social action programme designed to tackle local poverty and need. This approach enabled the development of a grassroots upwards understanding of how and why the programme operates. This in turn enabled the development of metrics and measures which recognise the importance of the abilities of community actors to build networks and connect the work of different partners and people. This develops clear links with theories of social capital (Putnam 2002) and organizational learning (Lam, 2000). Developing a grassroots understanding of how and why community development programmes operate challenges the assumptions made by policy makers and funders and gives voice to those key actors who often go unheard.
We conclude with a clear call to policy makers, practitioners and funders to adopt approaches which recognise and value the unique skills and knowledge that community actors bring to community development work. We suggest new models of capturing the role that tacit knowledge can and does play in community development.
29 Sep 2017
Center for Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment, United States, Illinois