Empowerment as a knowledge–theoretic concept

A vast body of literature has fleshed out the importance of managing knowledge, by facilitating effective knowledge exchange, as a mandatory requisite for improving living conditions in rural areas (Ali &C Avdic, 2015; Vong et ah, 2017). In this context, it needs to be remembered that management of knowledge can only yield a positive outcome in the context of rural empowerment if individual social actors within the social group are knowledge capable.

The previous section of the chapter chalks out the theoretical relationship between empowerment and agency, empowerment and opportunity structure, and empowerment and social capital, where agency, opportunity structure and social capital have been formulated as concepts facilitating empowerment of marginalized rural community. After discussing the facilitating agents, this section mainly chalks out the importance of managing knowledge in the context of achieving holistic rural empowerment. Our research initiative is designed to achieve rural empowerment by enhancing social capital, agency and opportunity structure of marginalized target group by equipping them with relevant knowledge required to pronounce life and livelihood prospects. Although attainment of rural empowerment through management of knowledge accounts to be our primary aim, such a developmental strategy will only be effective if the local community is knowledge capable to perform creation, storage and exchange of knowledge for communitarian betterment. This approach of ours to achieve holistic rural empowerment by making the rural community knowledge capable makes our conceptualization of empowerment a knowledge—theoretic one, where empowerment is considered as the end and ability to operate knowledge for benefit as the potential means to achieve empowerment.

Conceptualizing rural empowerment through management of knowledge

Knowledge, defined as theoretical and practical understanding of a subject, is considered the most crucial competitive asset in contemporary connected society

(Gao et al., 2018). Knowledge is a concept, skill, experience and vision providing a framework for creating, evaluating and using information (factual data) to achieve concrete benefits (Soltani &c Navimipour, 2016). While knowledge is a valuable asset, its value is only realized by virtue of using and sharing it. Knowledge, being an intellectual capital, is capable of empowering people through relevant exchange in a connected environment. Since it is the sharing and using of knowledge that contributes in enhancing individual and collective empowerment, the concept of managing knowledge to boost performance outcomes is increasingly gaining importance in contemporary society. Management of knowledge refers to the simultaneous practice of capturing, documenting, retrieving and using this knowledge, along with creating, transferring and reusing it (Gao et al., 2018). The contemporary world and its connected nature have made the creation, assimilation and dissemination of knowledge an easy phenomenon, thereby enhancing the importance of managing knowledge to attain effective results. A vast body of literature highlights the importance of knowledge management from an organizational perspective (Daneshfard, 2006; Davenport &C Prusak, 1998). Using innovative networking means to transfer knowledge has been effective in many contexts in improving organizational performance. However, if we can truly grasp the importance of knowledge as an asset we will identify the need to take the concept of knowledge management beyond organizational boundaries and attempt social development through optimal management of knowledge. The mechanisms are discussed in detail in Part II.

A valuable body of literature, which focuses on understanding the impact of knowledge management to improve organizational perspective, has primarily dealt with the dynamics of knowledge exchange in closed and homogenous organizational settings. Our research proposes to manage knowledge to facilitate social development in a heterogeneous social setting (Bandyopadhyay et al., 2015). Our proposed framework to manage knowledge for sustainable rural empowerment considers every actor as the possessor of knowledge, where we attempt to foster two-way knowledge transaction between urban and rural communities to mitigate extant knowledge divide. Although the physical and explicit knowledge isolation of rural community contributes to sustaining their marginalization, the implicit knowledge they possess through enculturation and experiences in their unique socio-cultural environment nevertheless accounts to be a valuable indigenous asset (Hess, 2006). Our adhered model of rural development thus premises on two-way knowledge exchange between urban and rural communities, where it considers both urban and rural communities as equal contributors to the knowledge pool, irrespective of their social location. Thus, by enabling the rural participants not only to acquire knowledge but also to share their own knowledge resources, our framework attempts to achieve rural empowerment from within by cultivating strategies of self-development and selfsustenance among the target group. We will discuss this framework in Part HI of this book.

The contemporary era and the dream to have one integrated world devoid of territorial boundaries have immense potential in sustaining a symbiotic knowledge transaction, where both urban and rural communities contribute to the knowledge pool in the process of creating, assimilating and disseminating knowledge via effective exchange. Social networking ties enable people to connect, communicate and collaborate easily. The promise of connectedness has the capacity to create a complex knowledge infrastructure that enables easier, faster and more widespread exchange of knowledge (Hemsley & Mason, 2013). These affordances not only guarantee access to knowledge but, by fostering effective exchange, enable participants to develop evaluative capacities by virtue of which they gain the skill to process acquired knowledge for practical benefits. It is this knowledge capability of rural participants that contributes in enabling optimal management of knowledge to yield effective outcomes. It is the value of knowledge in its implementation mode, gained by virtue of relevant exchange, that leads to “developmental effectiveness”. Developmental effectiveness contributes to reduced poverty and the building of capacity within communities, civil society and government to address their own developmental priorities (Stillman, 2013). This dynamic, two-way exchange of knowledge enables mutual differences in knowledge, skills, opportunity, culture and political power to complement, rather than contradict, each other. It is by realizing this spirit of inclusive knowledge management that we seek to deploy the concept in a heterogeneous social setting to attain holistic rural development.

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