Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Localization and Local Knowledge(s)

 I may have posted on this topic in the past but my thinking often evolves, so this is unlikely to be a full repeat.

World Localization Day is approaching.  Localization Day is celebrated on June 21.  It is an annual celebration convened by Local Futures, an international NGO led by [[Helena Norberg-Hodge]].  

Localization in the context of international development assistance (an in particular USAID jargon) refers to a set of internal reforms, actions, and behavior changes undertaken by organizations (donors and their implementing partners) to ensure that their work prioritizes local actors.

The two uses of the term "localization" are obviously related, but the meaning is much more restrictive in the international development assistance context and the underlying beliefs and strategies do not always align.

I've hit my head against walls many times in the past trying to argue that conversations/narratives, and associated jargon emerging from the international development industry continues to reflect the needs of the industry more than anything else and do not reflect local needs and realities.  That's why "localization" within the development industry is all about reforming how the development industry itself should behave.  Localization day -- and all it represents, on the other hand, is totally independent of the international development industry and should be celebrated EVERYWHERE. When I buy produce from my farmers' market instead of the grocery store, I am supporting localization in a small but tangible way.

Similar distinctions are probably necessary when talking about local knowledge(s).  Local knowledge in the international development industry is often associated with indigenous knowledge.  That's potentially quite limiting. I suspect there is a lot of local knowledge that is not (or no longer) associated with a specific indigenous population.  Local knowledge can simply be a deep knowledge of the local context, its history, current trends, most of which may have little to do with traditional or indigenous knowledge. 

I don't know yet exactly how to think about local knowledge(s), but I want to avoid using the term assuming that everyone else using it is talking about the same thing. I also think it's related to different ways of knowing, because Western "rational" thinking isn't the only way to KNOW something.