Decolonizing knowledge and learning systems by reconciling diverse ways of knowing

Speaker: Viola Hakkarainen, Joel Onyango, Gladys Kivati, Nora Ndege

Viola Hakkarainen will introduce the concept of engaging with diverse ways of knowing for sustainability transformations, and Joel Onyango, Gladys Kivati, and Nora Ndege will provide an in-depth case study of Learning Libraries, an effort to decolonize institutionalized knowledge practices by developing culturally-embedded and  non-elitist knowledge systems.

The epistemic dimension of human-nature relationships for inclusive and just sustainability transformations
Viola Hakkarainen

Knowledge processes such as (co-)creation, exchange and application are in many ways central to transformations towards sustainability. One of the key questions in sustainability science is how to reconcile diverse ways of knowing in planning and implementing just and sustainable futures. Sustainability science has adopted many approaches to collaborative knowledge production. What they hold in common is the need to recognize epistemic plurality to be able to address power dynamics and create just and inclusive outcomes. However, there are few empirical examples on how to navigate the epistemic plurality. In this presentation, I introduce and unpack the epistemic dimension of human-nature relationships. By using empirical case examples from a science-policy interface (The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) and ecosystem governance (High Coast/Kvarken Archipelago UNESCO World Heritage Site), I exemplify how the epistemic dimension can be approached in research and environmental decision-making processes. I then discuss the implications of the epistemic dimension for sustainability science and show how researchers involved in the many forms of collaborative knowledge processes can draw on the epistemic dimension both to increase their own reflexivity but also to understand the contexts they conduct research in. I argue that considering the epistemic dimension is the key for critical and inclusive sustainability science which aims at minimizing its contribution to epistemic domination and injustices and through collaborative knowledge production challenges the existing status-quo and business-as-usual practices.

Living Libraries – Decolonising knowledge and learning systems
Joel Onyango, Gladys Kivati, Nora Ndege

Across the developing world, the institutionalization of learning has made access to knowledge within various learning settings a preserve for the elite and privileged. This has made local knowledge transmission almost none-existent in some communities of practice. In an effort to decolonise knowledge and learning systems in the developing world, self-emerging and organized knowledge through storytelling and cultural histories have emerged. However, a framework to allow the institutionalized knowledge systems to be integrated with the self-emerging knowledge paradigm, needs various approaches. In this practice session, we open up a dialogue on how living libraries, as a tool and approach, could bridge the integration of institutionalized and self-emerging knowledge systems. The session offers an opportunity for panelists and participants to self-reflect on how living libraries have emerged, how they can be used to transform the knowledge economy in the developing world, and how the agency of living books can be challenged to encourage reduced elitist and privilege on knowledge production, availability and recognition. This session provides a nexus into the transformation conference 2023 by leveraging diversified knowledge frameworks and opening up the space for the transformation community to explore alternative approaches to knowing and learning in the developing world.