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Indigenous Knowledge Programs

Last modified: January 26, 2023
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Estimated reading time: 15 min

Overview

Indigenous knowledge refers to the traditional knowledge, skills, practices, and cultural beliefs that have been passed down through generations within a particular community or society. This knowledge is specific to a particular geographic location or culture and is often unique to the people who have developed it. Indigenous knowledge encompasses a wide range of subjects, including agriculture, medicine, environmental management, and spiritual beliefs.

Indigenous knowledge is important for several reasons:

  1. It is a valuable resource for sustainable development: Indigenous knowledge can provide practical solutions to problems such as land management, water conservation, and food security.
  2. It promotes cultural preservation and revitalization: Indigenous knowledge is often intertwined with traditional culture and customs. By preserving and revitalizing this knowledge, communities can maintain their cultural identity and heritage.
  3. It can enhance scientific knowledge: Indigenous knowledge can complement and sometimes even challenge Western scientific knowledge, providing valuable insights and perspectives.
  4. It can help in addressing global challenges: Indigenous knowledge can provide solutions to global challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss.
  5. It is an important source of inspiration and innovation: Indigenous knowledge can inspire new ways of thinking and can be used to develop new technologies and products.

To preserve and utilize indigenous knowledge, it is important to acknowledge and respect the intellectual property rights of the communities who hold it. This means that the knowledge should not be used without their permission and that any benefits derived from it should be shared with the community.

To access indigenous knowledge, it is important to engage with the community in a respectful and culturally appropriate manner. This may involve working with community leaders, elders, or other respected members of the community.

It is also important to document and record the knowledge, to ensure that it is not lost. This can be done through a variety of methods, including interviews, observations, and participatory mapping.

To ensure that the knowledge is used in a sustainable manner, it is important to involve the community in the decision-making process. This means that the community should be consulted about how the knowledge is used and that any benefits derived from it should be shared with the community.

In conclusion, indigenous knowledge is a valuable resource that can provide practical solutions to a wide range of problems. It is important to acknowledge and respect the intellectual property rights of the communities who hold it, and to involve the community in the decision-making process. By preserving and utilizing indigenous knowledge, we can promote sustainable development, cultural preservation, and scientific progress.

Issues

In the context of environmental, social and governance, indigenous knowledge can be considered a valuable resource for addressing and solving various issues related to sustainable development.

  1. Environmental: Indigenous knowledge often has a deep understanding of local ecosystems and natural resources, providing valuable insights into sustainable land management, water conservation, and biodiversity protection.
  2. Social: Indigenous knowledge can help preserve cultural heritage, improve community well-being, and promote intergenerational learning and transmission of traditional knowledge.
  3. Governance: Indigenous knowledge can support community self-determination and sovereignty, and provide a basis for community-based natural resource management and decision-making.

Indigenous knowledge can also help companies and organizations to understand and integrate local perspectives and values into their operations and decision-making processes. This can help to build trust and positive relationships with local communities, and contribute to the long-term sustainability of their operations. However, it’s important to note that the recognition, protection, and respect of indigenous knowledge needs to be done in a way that respects the rights of the communities that hold it, and that it should be used with the permission and participation of the communities. Some challenges include

  1. Social issues: Indigenous knowledge is often passed down through generations within a community, and its preservation and use can be essential for maintaining cultural heritage and identity. However, the loss of traditional knowledge can also contribute to the erosion of traditional social structures and cultural practices.
  2. Environmental issues: Indigenous knowledge is often closely tied to the natural environment, and can be used to sustainably manage resources such as land, water, and biodiversity. However, the loss of traditional knowledge can also contribute to the degradation of the environment, for example, as a result of inappropriate land use practices.
  3. Governance issues: Indigenous knowledge is often held and controlled by a specific community or group, and its use and preservation can be closely tied to issues of self-determination and sovereignty. The use of traditional knowledge without the permission of the community or group can be seen as a violation of their rights. Additionally, the protection of traditional knowledge can be hindered by a lack of legal recognition and protection.
  4. Intellectual property rights: Indigenous knowledge is often not protected by traditional intellectual property rights systems. This can make it vulnerable to exploitation by outside parties and make it difficult for the community or group that holds it to benefit from its use.
  5. Economic issues: Indigenous knowledge can provide practical solutions to problems such as land management, water conservation, and food security, which can contribute to economic growth and development. However, the loss of traditional knowledge can also limit economic opportunities for the communities that hold it.
  6. Education issues: Indigenous knowledge is often not recognized by formal educational systems, which can make it difficult for the community or group that holds it to pass it on to future generations.

Impact Assessments

Indigenous knowledge plays an important role in impact assessment because it can provide valuable insights into the potential impacts of a project or program on local communities and the environment. This can help to identify and address potential negative impacts before they occur, and to design and implement more effective and sustainable solutions.

In the context of impact assessment, Indigenous knowledge can be used to:

  1. Identify and assess the potential impacts of a project or program on local communities and the environment, including impacts on cultural heritage, social structures, and natural resources.
  2. Identify and assess the potential benefits of a project or program for local communities, including potential benefits to community well-being, economic development, and cultural heritage preservation.
  3. Identify and assess the potential trade-offs of a project or program, including potential trade-offs between economic development and environmental protection, or between community well-being and cultural heritage preservation.
  4. Design and implement more effective and sustainable solutions that take into account the perspectives and values of local communities, including solutions that build on local knowledge and skills.
  5. Develop and implement monitoring and evaluation plans that are appropriate and relevant for local communities, and that are sensitive to the perspectives and values of local communities.

It’s important to note that the recognition, protection, and respect of indigenous knowledge needs to be done in a way that respects the rights of the communities that hold it, and that it should be used with the permission and participation of the communities.

Education

Indigenous knowledge plays a critical role in education and capacity building, as it provides valuable insights into local cultures, values, and ways of life. This knowledge can be used to design and implement more effective and culturally appropriate education and capacity building programs that build on the knowledge and skills of local communities.

For example, incorporating indigenous knowledge in education and capacity building programs can help to:

  • Increase the relevance and impact of the programs by addressing the specific needs and priorities of local communities
  • Enhance the engagement and participation of community members by making the programs more culturally responsive
  • Promote the preservation and revitalization of indigenous languages and cultures
  • Encourage the participation of indigenous youth in formal and non-formal education and training programs
  • Support the development of local leaders who have a deep understanding of the community’s culture and values
  • Foster an understanding of the importance of sustainable development and environmental stewardship, by highlighting the traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous people.

Mentorship

Indigenous knowledge can bring many benefits to mentorship programs. It can provide a unique perspective on the culture, values, and ways of life of a community, and can be used to design and implement more effective and culturally appropriate mentorship programs.

Here are a few examples of how Indigenous knowledge can benefit mentorship programs:

  • By providing a deeper understanding of the community’s history, culture, and traditions, Indigenous knowledge can help to build stronger relationships between mentors and mentees, and increase the relevance and impact of the mentorship.
  • Indigenous knowledge can help to create mentorship programs that are more inclusive and responsive to the specific needs and priorities of local communities.
  • Incorporating Indigenous knowledge into mentorship programs can help to promote the preservation and revitalization of Indigenous languages and cultures.
  • Indigenous knowledge can also support the development of local leaders who have a deep understanding of the community’s culture and values.
  • Indigenous knowledge can also help to provide a framework for the mentee to learn and understand their heritage, culture, and tradition, which can foster mutual understanding and respect between different generations by highlighting the contributions and wisdom of the older generation.
  • Indigenous knowledge can also be used to design mentorship programs that address social, environmental and governance issues related to their own communities.

Reverse Mentorship

Indigenous knowledge plays a critical role in reverse mentorship, as it provides a valuable perspective on the culture, values, and ways of life of a community. This knowledge can be used to design and implement more effective and culturally appropriate reverse mentorship programs that build on the knowledge and skills of local communities.

For example, incorporating indigenous knowledge in reverse mentorship programs can help to:

  • Enhance the intergenerational transmission of knowledge by highlighting the importance of traditional knowledge and skills.
  • Increase the relevance and impact of the programs by addressing the specific needs and priorities of local communities
  • Provide a framework for the mentee to learn and understand their heritage, culture, and tradition.
  • Encourage the participation of indigenous youth in the mentorship process
  • Foster mutual understanding and respect between different generations by highlighting the contributions and wisdom of the older generation.
  • Support the development of local leaders who have a deep understanding of the community’s culture and values.
  • Promote the preservation and revitalization of indigenous languages and cultures.

It’s important to note that the recognition, protection, and respect of indigenous knowledge needs to be done in a way that respects the rights of the communities that hold it, and that it should be used with the permission and participation of the communities. And, it’s also important to consider the cultural safety and decolonization processes in the process of incorporating Indigenous knowledge in the reverse mentorship programs.

Diaspora

Indigenous knowledge in the context of diaspora communities refers to the traditional knowledge, skills, practices, and cultural beliefs that have been passed down through generations within a particular community or society that have been displaced or have migrated to other places. This knowledge is specific to a particular geographic location or culture and is often unique to the people who have developed it, but it is now being passed on and shared within diaspora communities. Indigenous knowledge encompasses a wide range of subjects, including agriculture, medicine, environmental management, and spiritual beliefs.

For diaspora communities, indigenous knowledge can be a valuable resource for preserving cultural heritage and identity. It can also provide practical solutions to problems such as land management, water conservation, and food security. Additionally, it can be a way for diaspora communities to connect with their ancestral home and maintain a connection to their cultural roots.

However, preserving and utilizing indigenous knowledge in diaspora communities can also pose challenges. Diaspora communities often face barriers such as language, cultural, and geographic distance that can make it difficult to access and preserve the knowledge. Additionally, there may be a lack of recognition and understanding of the value of indigenous knowledge within the host society, which can make it challenging for diaspora communities to share and utilize this knowledge.

To preserve and utilize indigenous knowledge in diaspora communities, it is important to acknowledge and respect the intellectual property rights of the communities who hold it. This means that the knowledge should not be used without their permission and that any benefits derived from it should be shared with the community.

It is also important to involve the community in the decision-making process and to document and record the knowledge, to ensure that it is not lost. This can be done through a variety of methods, including interviews, observations, and participatory mapping.

In addition, it can be beneficial to create opportunities for intergenerational exchange and collaboration within diaspora communities, such as reverse mentorship programs, where older members of the community can share their traditional knowledge with younger members, who can in turn help preserve and adapt this knowledge for future generations.

In conclusion, indigenous knowledge is a valuable resource for diaspora communities, providing a means of preserving cultural heritage and identity, and providing practical solutions to problems. However, preserving and utilizing indigenous knowledge in diaspora communities can also pose challenges, and it is important to acknowledge and respect the intellectual property rights of the communities who hold it, involve the community in the decision-making process, document and record the knowledge, and create opportunities for intergenerational exchange and collaboration.

Iran

Ancient times

Indigenous knowledge in the context of Iran has a long history dating back to ancient times. The Persian Empire, which existed from 550 BC to 330 BC, was known for its advanced knowledge of science, mathematics, medicine, and engineering. This knowledge was derived from a variety of sources, including the contributions of various ethnic and indigenous groups within the empire.

Islamic Golden Age

After the fall of the Persian Empire, the Islamic Golden Age (8th-13th century) saw a flourishing of knowledge and culture in Iran. This period was characterized by a significant exchange of ideas and knowledge between various ethnic and religious groups, including the Persian, Arab, and Turkic peoples. Indigenous knowledge was particularly important in fields such as medicine, agriculture, and architecture, where traditional practices and techniques were incorporated into the broader Islamic civilization.

20th Century

In more recent history, the 20th century has seen the suppression of indigenous cultures and knowledge in Iran as a result of modernization and centralization efforts by the state. This suppression has led to the loss of traditional ecological knowledge, languages, and cultural practices among many ethnic and indigenous groups. However, in recent years, there has been a renewed interest in preserving and revitalizing indigenous knowledge among some communities and organizations in Iran and across the Iranian diaspora communities.

Diversity

Iran is home to a diverse population of indigenous peoples, who have lived in the region for centuries. The country is home to different ethnic groups, each with their own unique culture, language and way of life. Some of the most well-known indigenous groups in Iran include the Kurds, Azeris, Gilaks, Arabs, Baluchis, Turkmens, and Lurs.

Displacement

Indigenous peoples in Iran have faced a variety of challenges throughout history, including displacement, marginalization, and discrimination. One of the main reasons for the migration and settlement of indigenous peoples in diaspora is due to the displacement caused by large-scale development projects, such as dams and mining, which have led to the loss of traditional territories and livelihoods.

Representation

Another reason for the migration of indigenous peoples is the lack of political representation and rights. Many indigenous groups have been denied recognition and rights by the government, leading to a lack of access to basic services and opportunities. This has led to poverty and marginalization, which has forced many people to leave their homes in search of a better life.

Discrimination

In addition to these issues, indigenous peoples in Iran have also faced discrimination and violence based on their ethnicity. This has led to further marginalization and a loss of cultural identity.

Perseverance

Despite these challenges, many indigenous peoples in Iran have been able to maintain their cultural heritage and traditions through their communities in diaspora. They continue to advocate for their rights and recognition, as well as for the protection of their cultural heritage. It is important for the diaspora communities to support and preserve the culture, language, and traditional knowledge of these indigenous groups, as they are an important part of Iran’s cultural heritage.

Bridges

In terms of unique solutions to Iran-related issues, indigenous peoples of Iran in the diaspora can provide valuable perspectives and cultural insights that may not be otherwise available. They can also serve as bridge-builders between their communities and broader Iranian society, and can advocate for the rights and needs of indigenous peoples within Iran. Additionally, they can use their skills, resources, and networks to support economic and social development projects in their ancestral communities.

Solidarity

Indigenous peoples of Iran in diaspora communities can connect and build solidarity with indigenous peoples of host communities in several ways.

  1. Cultural exchange: Indigenous peoples of Iran in diaspora communities can share their cultural heritage, traditions and practices with indigenous peoples of host communities. This can include organizing cultural events, workshops, and seminars where members of both communities can share their traditional knowledge, skills, and practices.
  2. Building personal relationships: Indigenous peoples of Iran in diaspora communities can build personal relationships with indigenous peoples of host communities through direct interactions and social activities. This can include joint participation in community events, volunteering, and other forms of social engagement.
  3. Collaboration on common issues: Indigenous peoples of Iran in diaspora communities can connect with indigenous peoples of host communities by collaborating on issues of common concern. This can include working together to advocate for indigenous rights, to protect traditional lands and resources, or to preserve cultural heritage.
  4. Mutual Support: Indigenous peoples of Iran in diaspora communities can support the efforts of indigenous peoples of host communities by providing resources, skills, and networks that can be used to promote the rights and interests of indigenous peoples. This can include providing financial support, technical assistance, or other forms of assistance as needed.
  5. Networking: Indigenous peoples of Iran in diaspora communities can connect with Indigenous peoples of host communities by participating in regional, national and international networks of Indigenous organizations and movements. Through these networks, they can share information, coordinate action and build solidarity.

Overall, building solidarity between indigenous peoples of Iran in diaspora communities and indigenous peoples of host communities requires a commitment to mutual understanding, mutual respect, and mutual support. It requires active engagement, open communication, and a willingness to learn from one another.

Diwan Programs

Transnational communities, such as the Iranian diaspora, may face challenges in preserving and sharing this knowledge across borders and across generations. The Diwan Diaspora Network is a global platform for Iranians in the diaspora to connect, collaborate and share their knowledge, skills, and resources. It’s an online platform that facilitates the exchange of information and resources among Iranians in the diaspora and with those in Iran. It also provides a space for Iranians to share their stories, cultural heritage and to preserve their traditions and indigenous knowledge.

One of the ways that the Diwan can empower indigenous knowledge of Iranian peoples is by creating opportunities for reverse mentorship programs. These programs connect younger members of the diaspora with older members who have a wealth of traditional knowledge and skills. This can help to transfer knowledge and skills across generations, and to ensure that these traditions are not lost as older members of the community pass away.

Another way Diwan can empower indigenous knowledge is by promoting governance models that are inclusive and culturally sensitive. This can include creating opportunities for community members to participate in decision-making processes, and ensuring that the needs and perspectives of indigenous and ethnic groups are taken into account.

Finally, Diwan can play a role in conducting community-based research (CBR) and supporting the integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives, which can help to promote the preservation of traditional ecological knowledge, as well as respect for the rights of indigenous communities.

Community-based research (CBR) is a research approach that involves working with communities to identify their needs and priorities, and to design and conduct research that is relevant and beneficial to them. Here are several examples of community-based research methods that can be used to document and incorporate indigenous knowledge:

  1. Participatory action research (PAR) – A collaborative research approach in which community members actively participate in the research process, from identifying research questions to analyzing data and implementing solutions.
  2. Oral history – A method of collecting and preserving traditional knowledge through interviews and storytelling.
  3. Ethnography – A research method that involves observing and participating in the daily lives of a community to gain a deep understanding of their culture and practices.
  4. Community mapping – A method of creating maps that document the local knowledge and resources of a community.
  5. Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) – A research approach that is based on the principle that knowledge is embedded in the social relations of the communities that produce it.
  6. Participatory GIS (Geographic Information Systems) – A method that uses GIS software and other tools in collaboration with community members to map, analyze, and manage geographic information.
  7. Citizen Science – A method that engages community members in scientific research by collecting data, making observations and doing experiments.

These methods are not mutually exclusive and could be combined to create a comprehensive research approach that incorporates indigenous knowledge and is tailored to the specific needs and context of a community.

Diwan Ecosystem

The Quadruple Helix (QH) partnership model and Quadratic Funding (QF) can be used to build epistemic knowledge ecosystems and support Participatory Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) for indigenous knowledge. The QH model involves partnerships between government, industry, academia, and civil society actors, while Quadratic Funding is a decentralized funding mechanism that allows for the pooling of resources from multiple stakeholders.

When applied to the context of indigenous knowledge, the Quadruple Helix model can be used to bring together a diverse group of actors to co-create and co-govern knowledge systems. For example, government agencies can provide funding and policy support, industry partners can provide technical expertise, academic partners can conduct research and provide training, and civil society organizations can provide community engagement and outreach.

Quadratic Funding, on the other hand, can be used to provide funding for projects that aim to preserve, document, and promote indigenous knowledge. By pooling resources from multiple stakeholders, it allows for a more equitable distribution of resources and can help to ensure that the needs of indigenous communities are taken into account in the design and implementation of these projects.

The Micro-production Model (MPM) can also be used to support the preservation of indigenous knowledge. The MPM is a decentralized production model that allows for the creation of small-scale, community-driven production units. It can be used to support the production of goods and services that are based on indigenous knowledge and can help to ensure that the benefits of this knowledge are shared with the community.

Indigenous Knowledge Programs and Reverse Mentorship Programs can also be paired to support the preservation of indigenous knowledge. Indigenous Knowledge Programs involve the documentation, preservation, and promotion of indigenous knowledge through activities such as workshops, training, and community engagement. Reverse Mentorship Programs involve the pairing of youth with older community members to share and learn traditional skills and knowledge.

Governance models in Diwan Network can also play a role in supporting the preservation of indigenous knowledge. By providing a decentralized and community-driven approach to governance, these models can help to ensure that the needs and perspectives of indigenous communities are taken into account in the design and implementation of projects and programs.

On-boarding process

To implement this, organizations can begin by identifying key stakeholders within each of the four helixes and forming partnerships that bring together diverse perspectives and expertise. QH partnerships can then be used to design and implement indigenous knowledge programs and community-based research projects.

The workflow for these programs would involve several key steps:

  1. Identify and engage key stakeholders: This includes identifying key players within government, industry, academia, and civil society, and engaging them in the design and implementation of the program.
  2. Design and implement the program: This includes developing program goals and objectives, creating a program plan and budget, and implementing the program.
  3. Monitor and evaluate the program: This includes monitoring the progress of the program and evaluating its effectiveness.
  4. Disseminate results: This includes sharing the results of the program with key stakeholders, including the community, and using the results to inform future program design and implementation.
  5. Building sustainable communities: This includes leveraging the Quadratic Funding mechanism to create sustainable, community-driven funding ecosystems that support the continued growth and development of the program.
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