A recognised recipe for innovation is knowledge exchange with ‘the other’: whether academics working together across disciplines, practitioners collaborating across sectors, or university, industry and community engaging with each other.  Yet efforts to engage across boundaries of discipline, sector, identity or geography often fall foul of a simple logistical problem: the otheras such is impossible to engage with.  

One can’t work with ‘industry’ or ‘community’ or ‘the university sector’; one can only work with particular organisations, departments of organisations, and people within them.  Equally, ‘international research linkages’ are highly desirable, especially for universities and international funders, but ‘international’ is another category that sits at a level of abstraction where it cannot be touched or engaged with. Internationalresearch relationships in practice happen on the ground, in specific countries, localities, and particular organisations. 

In 2016 I started building international research linkages with research centres working on sustainable development issues in local regions. While I had some support from specific ‘national’ and ‘international’ organisations, the engagement itself happened at ground level: through conversations with contacts, contacts of contacts, and their contacts – in towns and cities in Chile, Australia, and Argentina.  These conversations led to the creation of an international network of Regional Development Research Centres (RDRCs) – research institutions working with regions to support practical impacts – currently operating across four countries.

Networks aren’t just fun and collegial; they provide the infrastructure for the generation of ‘networked knowledge’. Different organisations and different localities often face similar challenges and have experimented with different solutions. Sharing knowledge and experiences across different geographical spaces – for instance through exchange visits or comparative projects – can harness the power of local knowledge dialoguing with local knowledge to spark new insights. For applied anthropologists, this is a way to place local knowledge-in-context at the centre of global knowledge-building.

At the 2019 SfAA meetings in Portland, I will facilitate a workshop on ‘Building International Research Linkages in Applied Anthropology’. The aim is to create a space for each participant to consider the value that networking across national boundaries could add to their work; explore what specific linkages would be valuable; and develop a ‘strategy pathway’ to engage with specific organisations to progress shared goals. 

SfAA Workshop 10, ‘Building International Research Linkages in Applied Anthropology’: Friday 22ndMarch, 12:00- 1:20pm, Senate Suite.  Register for SfAA Workshops at: https://www.sfaa.net/annual-meeting/workshops/registration/



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