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Knowledge as a Public Good

AI generated cover of the book "Knowledge as a Public Good: Reconceiving the Purpose and Methods of Knowledge Production"

CMES affiliated researcher Sarah Anne Rennick has co-edited a book published by the Arab Reform Initiative.

The book, Knowledge as a Public Good: Reconceiving the Purpose and Methods of Knowledge Production, was co-edited by Jamil Mouawad (American University of Beirut), Sarah Anne Rennick (CMES and Arab Reform Initiative) and Andrew Findell-Aghnatios (Arab Reform Initiative).


This volume originally started as a conversation between academics from across the Arab world, all of whom have bridged their academic careers or professional development expertise to the public sphere in order to use their knowledge more actively to push for progressive, democratic change in their respective countries. Over the course of the conversation, Arab engaged scholars and activists shared a decade’s worth of experiences and the lessons learned about how knowledge dissemination can help civil society organisations, community leaders, and average citizens to become informed and seasoned about the links between their grievances and demands and the public policies produced by their political systems. The conversation quickly shifted to how knowledge production can reinstate the ‘public good’ as a cornerstone of any social contract between governing groups and governed populations. Indeed, over the last decade, the Arab region has seen the emergence of this new generation of social scientists, activist-researchers, and experts (individuals, networks, or organizations), who are seeking to use their research and the knowledge they produce for the purpose of informing the public sphere and contributing to or questioning the public policy agenda in their respective countries. Like the authors collected in this volume, they became more focused on “policy change” as a main drive for their knowledge production. Evidently, other variables fostered this shift as think tanks, INGOs, and funding agencies were keener to measure impact in terms of tangible policy change, even in hard transitional contexts like the ones which followed the collapse of the Arab Spring mobilizations and the consolidation of authoritarianism in countries such as Syria, Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, and Lebanon. Throughout this conversation, that lasted the better part of two years as expressed in public conferences and webinars as well as private roundtables and exchanges, these knowledge producers presented how they aim to play a pivotal role in feeding and shaping the public debate and driving the momentum of social movements. For most of them, the production and dissemination of knowledge serves not only as a catalyst for awareness or advocacy, but also equally as important reference for contentious politics against the new rise of authoritarianism across the region.

Read and download the book