The Global Assembly for Knowledge Democracy

The Global Assembly project was initiated by ARNA in 2016 when a global group of scholar-activists, action researchers, and PAR practitioners was brought together virtually in conjunction with planning for ARNA’s 5th Annual Conference to be held in Cartagena, Colombia. The project’s initial focus was the organizing of a one-day participatory gathering to be convened at the conclusion of the ARNA Conference. The Global Assembly Project is now one component of ARNA’s Knowledge Democracy Initiative. Discussions are now underway with groups in various parts of the world that have expressed an interest in convening assemblies in varied contexts and sizes, and these discussions will be shared as proposals develop.

The 1st Global Assembly for Knowledge Democracy was held on June 16, 2017 in Cartagena, Colombia as part of the larger Conference organized by the Action Research Network of the Americas (ARNA), the National University of Colombia, and a number of other global action research networks, “Participation and Democratization of Knowledge: New Convergences for Reconciliation.” More than 300 people attended the first Assembly. A detailed overview of the Global Assembly, including videos of addresses and working sessions, can be found here.

Rationale of the Assembly

The Global Assembly examined global convergences emerging in relation to knowledge production, social progress, respect for epistemological diversity, and alternative globalization. The event was organized with the intention of initiating a thoughtful and strategic assessment of the politics of knowledge creation and the potential of participatory approaches as alternatives to a monolithic knowledge enterprise based on the domination of the Global North and the marginalization and subordination of other knowledges.

The Global Assembly Co-Chairs were Lonnie Rowell (USA), Knowledge Mobilization Coordinator for ARNA, and Christine Edwards-Groves (AUS), Australian coordinator and international co-leader of the Pedagogy, Education and Praxis (PEP) network. In the following video, Dr. Lonnie Rowell explains what Knowledge Democracy means and why the Global Assembly was created.

Lonnie Rowell: Introducing the Global Assembly for Knowledge Democracy from Jose Ramos on Vimeo.

Ecology of Knowledges

A key question for those working in the social spaces created by the global action research community, Urban Commons movement, the World Social Forum, Peer to Peer networks, the Indigenous Sovereignty and other anti/decolonizing movements, and the flourishing culture of alternative networks in general, is the extent to which epistemological, ideological and political differences can be reconciled in the interest of a sustainable and socially just world.

The Global Assembly sought to address this question in the context of an ecology of knowledges. Our interest lay in “the geopolitics of knowledge, its eagerness to problematize the equation of who produces knowledge, in what context, and for whom” (de Sousa Santos, 2008, p. xxxiv). Thus, the 1st Global Assembly was organized with the intention of initiating a thoughtful and strategic assessment of the politics of knowledge creation and the potential of participatory approaches as alternatives to a monolithic knowledge enterprise based on the domination of the Global North and the marginalization and subordination of other knowledges.