Keep lions telling their own story!

What makes for knowledge? How is it acquired? And how should it be used? I have been grappling with this notion ever since I arrived at the place called home. I came to teach, but I found myself being the student more than the teacher. I found myself asking questions internally and also doing so externally. Is knowledge only knowledge when it comes from the West? What about the rest? Don’t they have knowledge of their own to contribute as well? Who gets to decide when knowledge should be for everyone? Is it those that published it faster or those yet to publish it at all? I ask these questions because the field within which I work in, the one called implementation science is so full of knowledge. So full of power too. But do knowledge and power go hand in hand. Is power even a stable entity?

Take for example a context where research isn’t prioritized? Is this context the same as one where research is prioritized? Are they even on the same playing field as equity would imply or should we level the playing field for everyone. The limits and complexities of knowledge is my keep for today. That and who owns the right to it. I spent the week in a place where many have never heard of implementation science. Yet once shared, resonates with their worldview. I did what was expected with my lessons, stuck to the script like a bee on a honeycomb. I shared all the information that all the powers in the field recommend. I used key resources from key institutions to frame all the information I shared. Yet, when I finished, I felt like we where just beginning. I felt like I needed to now learn how they would do it here. I felt hungry for knowledge for my own sake. Anything that I could digest in the way that my lecture did of how they would do it here.

Here is a place after all that created literature authors wanted to read, or music, musicians wanted to play. Fela Kuti is a household name on his own with his own genre of music the West didn’t have until he arrived. The same goes for Chinua Achebe or Wole Soyinka or Chris Okigbo and their style of literature. This place birthed it’s own giants unprepared to do what the West prescribed. Not when they knew what would work for their own context.

Of course they knew the script of the West. Knew what it entails to dance to the tune of those who first hunted. But what happens when the empire decides to strike back. What would they bring to the field? I don’t expect lions to watch the hunters forever. They know how the story ends. These days, I look forward to them choosing to fight back on their own terms. And after my lecture, I was prepared to see what they would do. And these lions delivered.

What I learned, in other words, is that knowledge is not a simple process of gathering and dispensing facts or just sharing and eliciting information. I also learnt that knowledge does not lie solely in the acquisition of more facts or information. Rather, knowledge like anything else, art, music, literature, is vast and thus cannot be confined to any one place or person or group or continent in any single method. Not when it belongs to everyone.

Of course we have never heard of this field called implementation science, some said. Yes I am curious to learn more, others said. But what of here? What about what we do here. I smiled. Now they are are prepared for the fight. All I ask is for the hunters to get out of their way. See them roar too. For knowledge after all, is for everyone. That’s the gift I got now that my week has come to an end. The gift of seeing lions prepared to fight their way even in a field they have never heard of until this week. Implementation science should look in the mirror often so as not to be taken by surprise from lions on the prowl. Either way, they are ready to tell the story their way. They expect a struggle. Life is full of struggles after all. At least they would have tried. I have tried and failed many times, still I tried. That to me is the gift worth sharing. The power of struggle. The power too of lions finally telling the story of the hunt, their way. Thank you my hosts for a wonderful week and to all the lions I meet, I look forward to reading your stories.

Some lions ready and eager to tell the story their way. What a week. Thank you, thank you.
Thank you NIMR!

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