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Step 6 - Collecting and disseminating knowledge

  • Systemic communication +

    A functional energy system communicates knowledge effectively by getting it to actors who need it in the right moments and at relatively low costs. In contrast, a dysfunctional system has either limited knowledge or knowledge that is too expensive or remains locked in by certain market actors and doesn't reach the rest, particularly the marginalised and women.

    Systemic communication requires the facilitators to identify the communication blockages in the system and identify what is required for relevant knowledge (e.g. prices, quality standards, the arrival of a new technology) to be regularly and effectively communicated to the actors who need it most. This information includes the access to technologies and services and how to use them, and their ability to build trusting relationships, coordinate and collaborate with other actors, including building their own self esteem to engage as rightful market actors.

    Note: getting the right information to the right market actors is half the battle, and getting the market actors to use the information is equally important, and requires effective facilitation.

    It is useful to identify knowledge as one of the critical products being produced, exchanged and consumed in the energy system, and to assess the following criteria:

    • The actors are who produce, exchange and use knowledge (e.g. consumers, government agencies, researchers, manufacturers, media, training institutes etc.).
    • The relationships, networks and spaces that enable or hamper the exchange of knowledge (e.g. business transactions, informal conversations in the local cafe, cooperatives, fairs).
    • The norms, incentives and infrastructures that enable or hamper the production, dissemination and use of knowledge (e.g. training curricula, standards, the belief that “women should not learn about certain types of businesses”, evidence that knowledge can solve real problems or lead to increased incomes, mobile phone networks).

    Action: Facilitators can complete the Template in Annex 7 to assess a number of the key or marginalized actors to understand what and how they communicate knowledge, and to identify recommendations on how to empower and engage them within the facilitation process so they can carry out systemic communication more effectively.

    The goal of facilitators is to create positive conditions for marginalised actors to interact, coordinate and collaborate with other public and private actors, adding value to the system and benefitting them and others. The process of knowledge production, sharing, use and adaptation are all critical components of this.

    Marginalised Actors: Facilitators must regularly empower, train or raise the awareness of the marginalised actors to allow them to engage better with the other actors - a form of empowerment. However, it is important to note that the more marginalised the actors, the more facilitators will have to invest in building the basic minimum level of knowledge, attitudes and skills to allow these actors to engage on a equal footing with other market actors.

    Facilitators need to leverage the many opportunities for empowerment that exist when engaging market actors. These are often not complex or difficult, such as communicating small successes and including actors in networks and groups with a shared mission. The following are some of the transferable skills and attitudes that marginalised actors can gain through the process:

    • Negotiating with other market actors
    • Pitching their products or services
    • Building trust, networks and partnerships
    • Building alliances, or other advocacy processes to influence policy-makers
    • Identifying key issues to improve the forecasting of trends and shocks
    • Identifying business opportunities
    • Detecting detect good and bad intentions of others

    Knowledge Flows: It can also be useful to identify the flows of knowledge through an energy system between the actors. This can help identify how knowledge does, or does not, flow and where the blockages might be. This can be carried out by using a knowledge market map as shown in Figure 3, with the red arrows showing the direction of the knowledge transfer.

  • Knowledge acquisition +

    Once the type of knowledge has been identified it is then important to identify which of the 3 main ways that knowledge is obtained by the market actors in an energy market system in a commercial setting. Each model has strengths and weaknesses depending on the context, the actors involved and the type of knowledge communicated, so facilitators need to pay careful attention to the type of knowledge that is required for the market actors to make their new business models successful. In addition to formal knowledge channels, information can also flow through informal oral or written transfers between colleagues, or members of a tribe or family.

    Facilitators need to be aware of communication processes that are closely linked to personal and cultural beliefs. These are often deeply rooted in social institutions, and are protected by powerful actors whose decisions can affect large numbers of people, but can be used effectively if appropriate and ethically acceptable. The facilitators also need to ensure that the market actors drive the process and decide what knowledge channels to use to overcome tensions or blockages.

  • Purchased knowledge +

    In this model, actors who need knowledge pay to receive and use it for their own benefit. It is normally highly specialised or expert knowledge that is difficult to obtain or that is protected by some sort of intellectual property right. The less specialised or protected the knowledge, the cheaper it will be. In this model a common mistake knowledge brokers make is to provide paid-for technical assistance that can be easily codified and transferred, as most actors will not make repeat purchases and often pass it to other actors by word of mouth. Although this model is important for disseminating knowledge, knowledge brokers need to ensure their business models are viable.

  • Subsidised knowledge +

    In this case, public actors such as government agencies, ministries, bilateral and multilateral development organisations and even private companies, foundations and philanthropists, pay for the creation and dissemination of knowledge which is seen as a public good for a range of development goals. The barriers to access of such knowledge are very low, and it is often packaged in a way that can be easily accessed even by the marginalised actors.

  • Sponsored knowledge +

    In this model, sponsors pay for the production, dissemination and even adoption (e.g. through training) of knowledge that they see as directly or indirectly contributing to their goals or performance. A sponsor can see direct benefits when the knowledge produced, disseminated or adopted creates a more receptive or friendly environment for their operations. This results in indirect benefits when their brand or concepts are associated with products or services that are widely recognised and respected or that generate positive emotions for consumers. One of the main criticisms of this model is that sponsors may have strong incentives to put their interests before those of the final users of the knowledge. This is a justified concern and facilitators should be mindful of this.

  • Knowledge dissemination +

    For the wide communication and dissemination of knowledge to take place a transmitter, a message and a recipient must be in place. However, when communicating knowledge at scale to reach large numbers of marginalised actors, facilitators must ensure the following:

    • Existence of capable communicators
    • Well crafted messages and keen and capable listeners
    • Mix of translators, connectors and opinion makers

    In order to create a good mix of translators, opinion makers and connectors to spread knowledge, facilitators must select a group of knowledge disseminators that strike a balance between the following:

    Self Selection: market actors decide on their own to participate in the roadmap process

    Group Selection: a group elects or appoints a representative in the roadmap process

    Strategic Selection: when the facilitator influences the selection of market actors, hooking them into the roadmap process

    Action: The facilitator should complete the template in Annex 9 to identify the group of market actors who will lead the process of knowledge dissemination, including the main types of knowledge that they need to focus on and the main methods they will use to try and disseminate the knowledge to the other market actors.

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