Knowledge Exchange Network

Challenges: Ineffective crisis response, disconnect between leaders and communities

We consider the way of responding to contemporary crises – such as the open attack of Russian troops on the territory of Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, the change of power in Iran – to be one of the most important challenges for democracy. Crises are and will be an inseparable part of modernity, therefore the institutional ability to respond to them, taking into account the democratic voice of the community, is of key importance. Top-down leadership has often provided inadequate solutions to crises as evidenced in the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. This has further alienated individuals from the actual issues at hand, making them feel like politics has failed them. Hence, we suggest the promotion of bottom-up leadership and community engagement. Political and local leaders must communicate effectively with local communities, but also build a sense of shared responsibility among all citizens.

Proposal: Establishment and promotion of knowledge exchange networks of local grassroots organisations

To strengthen bottom-up solutions and leadership, we are recommending the formation of knowledge exchange networks of local grassroots organisations. By sharing experiences and ideas of local communities, potential effective responses to crises can be scaled up to regional or even national levels. Hereby, it is crucial to facilitate communication, for example, through increased telecommunication access as well as transport into less easily accessible areas. By enabling leaders and communities to share local solutions, knowledge exchange networks can increase awareness of, and accountability to, individuals’ needs, hence, furthering the democratic process. At the same time, an important goal is to support local leaders, representatives of social organisations, and community members so that they can work together meaningfully.

Practical solutions:

  1. Amplification of activism and grassroots leadership through the establishment of knowledge exchange networks of grassroots-level organisations, including: sharing resources to all community members by exchanging contacts with each other (e.g., through a database) or jointly organised meetings to draw and learn from available knowledge(s) (e.g., on how to obtain grants, how to organise events), translating materials/resources into local, indigenous languages to open knowledge production and dissemination to up to ethnic, religious, linguistic, and cultural minorities;
  2. Knowledge sharing by increasing telecommunication access and supporting transport for in-person meetings. This may apply to places that have limited infrastructure and/or limited access to the internet, electricity, and telecommunications network, or locations that are less easily accessible for certain people (e.g. elderly people, people without a car);
  3. Fostering community engagement and participation by supporting local and regional knowledge, local activities and community meetings aimed at building bonds with the place and with the community (e.g., physical or artistic work, garbage collection, etc.), and by creating public spaces conducive to local community activity (e.g., green areas, shared work spaces);
  4. Establishing legal protection of activists and grassroots organisations.

Impact: Promotion of bottom-up leadership and support of local engagement and activism

Sharing and exchanging of knowledge via networks of local grassroots organisations can lead to the scaling up of effective solutions to manage crises. Communities and leaders who have more empathy and understanding for local issues will take more effective action than could be achieved through a universal top-down approach. Leaders that are closely connected to their communities can foster overall community engagement and participation and, by protecting grassroots organisations, activism will be amplified and may even be elevated to regional, national, or international levels, strengthening the democratic process.