Unlocking Knowledge Capital to Build Community

Unlocking Knowledge Capital to Build Community

Today marks the 6th anniversary of my husband’s death. Keith Hogan was an extraordinary person in every way, from his incredibly positive attitude towards life to his genius way of problem solving. He was well known for his blue eyes and is well remembered for his infectious laugh. He also happened to have a form of Muscular Dystrophy called Spinal Muscular Atrophy which limited his physical movement in the world, but, thanks to technology, he was able to share his knowledge capital to create a lasting legacy of opportunity for others.  (You can see Keith in action in a short film called The Lucky Mutant).

So, what is knowledge capital? As defined by the Business Dictionary, it is the know how that results from the experience, information, knowledge, learning and skills of the employees of an organization. Of all the factors of production, knowledge capital creates the longest lasting competitive advantage. It may consist entirely of technical information or may reside in the actual experience or skills acquired by the individuals. Knowledge capital is an essential component of human capital. There is more complexity to this capital because it’s shaped, honed and refined by each individual’s experience of the world. Everyone carries this capital with them from birth, but it’s not valued equally, often dependent on the acceptance of the body in which it is carried.  As with most folks who have disabilities, the knowledge capital Keith was blessed with would have remained locked up and unexpressed if it hadn’t been for the technology made available to him—beginning with language—which allowed him to share his knowledge and create an incredible life far beyond the expectations of many, but no surprise to those who knew him best.

Imagine this experience writ large, in every community, with thousands of people holding the knowledge capital needed to rewrite the story of their lives, their families and the community at large. The ‘disability’ these folks suffer is the lack of access to the mechanisms to activate the knowledge earned through living in the community.  How would that story be different if that natural knowledge was expressed and valued for the important resource it is? What would happen if community members were empowered to create thriving communities that reflected the values that expressed their history and vision of a future? While these might seem to be overwhelmingly large questions, there are organizations and platforms that are actively supporting this shift in mindset from ‘waste to wealth’ with a shared goal of co-creating stronger communities that move beyond surviving to thriving.  Activating this capital allows for the creation of sustainable economy at the community level shifting required expenditures (food, housing, energy, water, etc.) from spend-to-survive to invest-to-thrive.

Two ideas in development that could unlock this local capital:

Grassroots Marketplace: A food/craft accelerator and demonstration space for applied technology

  • Commercial Kitchen
  • Commercial Bakery
  • Maker spaces
    • Designated areas for:
      • Growing – greenhouse, aquaponics, etc.
      • Marketplace – fresh food, crafted products, etc.
      • Shared services – printing, business services, etc.
      • Educational space – applied learning, conferences, etc.

Tech Roots Lab and the Game Roots Collaborative will be further developed into three product/revenue streams for the accessible/aging/disabled community:

  • Hardware – Tangible products
  • Software – Virtual products
  • Wetware – Intellectual property & ideas from members of the community.
  • These could all be used as revenue streams as well as job creation for designers and beta/product testers for members of the accessible/aging/disabled community.

A sample of the organizations committed to working with communities to answer these questions:

Parish Collective – offers deep support to local churches, faith-based groups, and any follower of Christ that desires to grow roots in their neighborhood and links across cities for parish renewal.

Strong Towns – The mission of Strong Towns is to support a model of development that allows America’s cities, towns and neighborhoods to become financially strong and resilient.

Thriving Community Solutions – understands building local community self-reliance is the new community growth strategy. This is accomplished through the actions of community making entrepreneurs.

Knowbility – Operates with the mission of improving technology access for millions of youth and adults with disabilities all over the world.

So, yes, there are big questions being asked, however, there are many hearts and minds working on the answers.