Knowledge Transformation at Work: Data to Understanding to Action

We're often asked to explain what "Knowledge Transformation" means to our work as a Foundation. To us, it is taking existing or emergent knowledge and making it practical for users, a process we sometimes refer to as "turning knowledge into action".

Developing and sharing knowledge is a complex process, but an emerging range of interpretation and presentation tools can help. Given that massive amounts of data are being created daily in various areas of specialization, and that there are endless ways to interpret such findings, it is easy for an individual decision-maker to be overwhelmed unless there are ways to place the data into a context that gives it some meaning.

An interesting example of how advanced interpretation and presentation techniques can work is the question of how to mine the world's vast stores of statistical data on complex issues like global health and social trends, make it understandable, and turn that understanding into practical policy actions to help alleviate pressing social issues like child mortality rates in developing countries.

Dr. Hans Rosling, professor of global health at Sweden's Karolinska Institute, presented the power of transforming existing knowledge through technology at TED 2006, with a demonstration of his gapminder software in debunking myths in Third World health and social trends:


Is (a little) Knowledge a Dangerous Thing?

THE ISSUE: A recent poll in the U.S. highlights a surprising finding that -- at least in the U.S. -- the better informed a person professes to be about global warming, the less they seem to care or accept personal responsibility for it.

THE TAKE-AWAY: In the midst of continuing denial from some quarters about the scope and scale of human-induced climate change, the research points out that presenting information is not enough. Instead, developing a convincing and compelling plan for individual changes in consumption is paramount. So, what are YOU going to do about climate change?

Increased Knowledge About Global Warming Leads To Apathy, Study Shows

ScienceDaily (2008-03-28) -- The more you know the less you care -- at least that seems to be the case with global warming. A telephone survey of 1,093 Americans by two Texas A&M University political scientists and a former colleague indicates that trend, as explained in their recent article in the peer-reviewed journal Risk Analysis. ... > read full article


The Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change

There are few issues of more importance to humanity than the prospect of profound climate change, but the ongoing public policy debate has not generally been placed within an ethical context.

Dr. Donald Brown of Penn State University and the Rock Ethics Institute presented on the ethical dimensions of climate change at the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with parts of the discussion captured in the following YouTube video:

Full details on the ethical dimensions discussed in the video can be found in the accompanying white paper (click link to open or download).