Learning Strategy

During initial years of decentralization in Latin America, little if any structured learning was put in place by governments or development institutions. Knowledge exchange could have closed knowledge gaps, improved policy design, and prevented false starts. In the past decade or so, a large number of cities in developed and developing countries—and a growing number of knowledge agents such as specialized agencies and NGOs—have gained considerable experience in structuring and transferring knowledge to other cities. Many tested modalities of city learning—study tours, regional knowledge centers, conferences, city-to-city exchange—could be helpful, depending on local circumstances and need.

New Roles for the International Development Institutions

The growing but hidden knowledge economy creates opportunity costs for the IDIs that have a mandate for capacity building. The active networks of knowledge sharing between cities indicate that IDIs are to some degree working parallel to, or at least not taking advantage of, the capacity building that occurs in the exchanges that are taking place from one city to another. The IDIs might well find that their comparative advantage lies less in direct provision of knowledge and more in the identification, licensing, and management of high-performing cities and organizations as knowledge agents. The cities and regions that are clients of the major donors could then make use of technical assistance and capacity-building funds to purchase knowledge and learning from cities with greater experience. The IDIs could thus serve as accredited promoters instead of trying to provide technical assistance directly.


  • 1. This chapter is based on Decentralization and Local Democracy: First Global Report (the GOLD Report) (UCLG and World Bank, 2008), particularly that report’s concluding chapter. The report was organized by the Global Observatory on Local Democracy and Decentralization (GOLD), part of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) in Barcelona, Spain; the report was presented at the UCLG World Congress in Jeju, South Korea, in October 2007.
  • 2. The term Eurasia refers to the region that incorporates the states of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldavia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
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