Knowledge is personal

Filed Under (Methodology, program evaluation) by Molly on 29-06-2015 and tagged , , , , , ,

Knowledge is personal!

A while ago I read a blog by Harold Jarche. He was talking about knowledge management (the field in which he works). That field  makes the claim that knowledge can be transferred; he makes the claim that knowledge cannot be transferred.  He goes on to say that we can share (transfer) information; we can share data; we cannot share knowledge. I say once we share the information, the other person has the choice to make that shared information part of her/his knowledge or not. Stories help individuals see (albeit, briefly) others’ knowledge.

Now,  puzzling the phrase, “Knowledge is personal”.  I would say, “The only thing ‘they” can’t take away from you is knowledge.” (The corollary to that is “They may take your car, your house, your life; they cannot take your knowledge!”).

So I am reminded, when I remember that knowledge is personal and cannot be taken away from you, that there are evaluation movements and models which are established to empower people with knowledge, specifically evaluation knowledge. I must wonder, then, if by sharing the information, we are sharing knowledge? If people are really empowered? To be sure, we share information (in this case about how to plan, implement, analyze, and report an evaluation). Is that sharing knowledge?

Fetterman (and Wandersman in their 2005 Guilford Press volume*)AA027003 says that “empowerment evaluation is committed to contributing to knowledge creation”. (Yes, they are citing Lentz, et al., 2005*; and Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995*., just to be transparent.) So I wonder, if knowledge is personal and known only to the individual, how can “they” say that empowerment evaluation is contributing to knowledge creation. Is it because knowledge is personal and every individual creates her/his own knowledge through that experience? Or does empowerment evaluation contribute NOT to knowledge creation but information creation? (NOTE: This is not a criticism of empowerment evaluation, only an example using empowerment evaluation of the dissonance I’m experiencing; in fact, Fetterman defines empowerment evaluation as “the use of evaluation concepts, techniques, and findings to foster improvement and self-determination”. It is only later in the volume cited that the statement of knowledge creation)

Given that knowledge is personal, it would make sense that knowledge is implicit and implicit knowledge requires interpretation to make sense of it. Hence, stories because stories can help share implicit knowledge. As each individual seeks information to become knowledge, that same individual makes that information into knowledge and that knowledge implicit.  Jarche says, “As each person seeks information, makes sense of it through reflection and articulation, and then shares it through conversation…” I would add, “and shared as information”.

Keep that in mind the next time you want to measure knowledge as part of KASA on a survey.

my two cents.


  1. * Fetterman, D. M. & Wandersman, A. (eds.) (2005). Empowerment evaluation principles in practice. New Y0rk: Guilford Press.
  2. Lentz, B. E., Imm, P. S., Yost, J. B., Johnson, N. P., Barron, C., Lindberg, M. S. & Treistman, J. In D. M. Fetterman & A. Wandersman (Eds.), Empowerment evaluation principles in practice. New York: Guilford Press.
  3. Nonaka, I., & Takeuchi, K. (1995). The knowledge creating company. New York: Oxford University Press.
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