Since its establishment, in 2011, KEN has evolved through the following three distinct stages:
2012 – 2015: during initial years, besides starting the publication of the monthly bulletin, KEN has organised several conferences, which have attracted between 40 and over 120 participants (in Brussels, India, Canada, Slovenia and Croatia). On some conferences we also awarded selected organisations for exceptional achievements in building knowledge economy, and we created the global export pool – and started offering to KEN members also some consulting services.
Since 2015 the main focus has been shifted to periodic publications – as we have started in 2015 the weekly briefs, in 2019 the Bibliographic Bulletin, in 2020 we started to publish regularly in Wallstreet International Magazine (who became our partner), and in 2022 we started to develop the sustainable knowledge economy quarterly – to become our scientific journal.
In mid-2021 the decision was made to launch a global SNN – a hugely ambitious project, the success of which depends on whether KEN will succeed to mobilize a critical mass of networks, genuinely interested and capable of creating and/or strengthening international thematic networks at the global level - with the ambition to make a difference in the respective thematic domains.
The concept of knowledge economy is not understood by everyone identically, and in KEN we have experienced so far a major conceptual development of the network, which could also be divided into the following 3 stages:
(a) Initially the focus was on knowledge generation and dissemination, as the stock of knowledge tends to become the central pillar of a country's higher productivity and international competitiveness – but the volume and quality of knowledge qualifying the human capital of a society, though extremely important, is in itself not yet decisive for determining creative power of a society and its economy;
(b) In the next stage the focus was moving increasingly to the innovation and the innovation ecosystem – by which knowledge actors become fully successful and are being supported in their efforts to finalize the results of a nations' creativity by placing new products and services at the markets where they are favourably accepted. This has helped us interpret authentically the power of knowledge in the age after the linear innovation system;
(c) More recently, since mid-2021, the network's focus has been broadened and the criteria of sustainability has been included, as it was realised that knowledge and innovation have to fulfill their broader, positive societal function. That is not only to build a competitive knowledge economy (irrespective of social progress and responsible relationship to the environment), but to achieve this in full respect of all three aspects of sustainability (economic, environmental, as well as social).
These three sustainability domains are addressing the concerns at macro, as well as at micro level, though with some differences - depending on specific responsibilities of policy makers, intermediary organisations, as well as the innovation actors from business and academia.
In knowledge generation the focus is on knowledge actors, who should be aware that quality of an organisation's human capital determines its performance and should maintain at corporate level appropriate innovation management, and keep education and training as their highest priority. Therefore particular attention should be paid to: (a) training activities within the company, (b) to modernisation of university education, and (c) to the life-long learning in the era of intense digitalisation.
In innovation and ecosystem, we are targeting both actors and policy-makers. They both should be aware that about half of economic growth comes from innovation. We remind all concerned that lots can be done to make an organization innovative, and that the contribution of a well-designed ecosystem from the national to corporate level is extremely important.
In sustainability we remind economic and innovation actors that operating sustainably may imply some addtional cost, primarily in the short run, while in the long run it creates benefits for society, as well as additional value for the producer – increasingly recognised by the market. Ignoring sustainability by the producers as well as consumers, is not only socially unacceptable, but also harmfull for the respective companies - often already in the short run, and definitely in the long run. Sustainable operations are gradually becoming a competitive advantage, as the consumers are growing their awareness of the importance of sustainability for each and every one of us.
On this conceptual basis KEN views its primary mission in developing public awareness of the advantages of knowledge and innovation-based progress towards a more sustainable future, which requires and facilitates the unavoidable, fundamental changes in economic and socio-political organisation of modern societies (rejecting shareholder and building on the logic of stakeholder capitalism). Fortunately the young generations are demonstrating increasing levels of sustainability awareness.
The impact of KEN efforts depends on persuasive potential of its publications, and therefore our editorial policy should rely on the following principles:
- Argumentation should be substatiated by the latest academic contributions and scientific discoveries, as well as lessons of successful practitioners - in terms of their approach, method of analysis, and support to practical recommendations addressed to KEN members and beyond;
- Analytical presentation of sustainable, knowledge economy good practice cases – including from KEN partners and members – with interpretation of key actors responsible for their success;
- Evaluation of new trends in sustainable knowledge economy policies and development of national and regional innoecosystems;
- Reporting on changes in international environment impacting the sustainable, knowledge economy efforts at national, regional and local levels;
- Presenting major new contributions to sustainable knowledge economy theory, published in books and important articles – bibliographical information through links to the publications.
The initiative of SNN programme is a response to the challenges described above in order to help the civil society, as well as business, education and research organisations, to respond more actively and more efficiently in the domains of sustainable development, including the domain of knowledge (covering science, r&d, innovation, and skills). Sustainability is not a purely economic, rational, or scientific concept. It has much to do with societal values (such as solidarity, socio-economic cohesion, inclusiveness, and the very purpose of life: peoples' happiness. These are categories which the liberal economic school fails to integrate with the formulas of efficiency and the ROI principle.
More recently, the reaction to such a simplified approach to life is growing – triggered primarily by the realisation of the unacceptable damage caused to our habitat. Therefore, the time has come to encourage and facilitate more interaction among active and like-minded associations and networks at the global level, enabling them to be more effective in creating a noticeable impact, than ever before.
This is to be the added value of SNN - on top of the activities of numerous networks and associations around the globe:
Firstly, in line with its complex and holistic orientation, it will connect all types of entities - going beyond the traditional separation between politics and business, society and environment, and the macro from micro perspective – both regarded independently being rather outdated today;
Secondly, its primary objective will be to increase awareness of all relevant decision-makers and stakeholders about the urgency to achieve higher levels of sustainability, and on the request of SNN partners and members, will help them organise some joint activities and events;
Thirdly, it will develop a system of sustainability self-evaluation for various types of organisations, accompanied by some certificates of distinction to be awarded to SNN partners and members, for their exceptional results in achieving favourable sustainable performance;
Fourthly, it will encourage members to pool resources in legitimate lobbying of and effective pressure upon relevant authorities for necessary regulatory and policy reforms – needed for greater sustainability. The proposed SNN is expected to function in a strictly horizontal and totally non-hierarchical fashion. Participation of the SNN partners and members in various joint activities is to be completely voluntary, and the SNN political platform/program should remain totally independent and only conceptually broadly linked to other associated organisation, and at the same time general enough to attract as many organisations as possible.
It is being noticed that many of the efforts conducted by the existing organisations are facing the following challenges:
(a) conceptually not being sufficiently holistic, often remaining limited to only one or some issues relevant to a restricted domain of sustainability or territory;
(b) methodologically often inappropriate in terms of lobbying techniques – required for a specific and successful campaign;
(c) incomplete in the proposed operational focus on the requested changes in the respective domain(s).
None of the above situations are optimal, and since there is usually little association with similar organisations in the immediate, let alone geographically more distant context, the impact of respective networks often remains rather limited. The proposed SNN could contribute in addressing properly all three of these concerns by helping its members to increase their impact locally and far beyond.
The presently available information technologies facilitate more productive communication, regular contacts, and effective collaboration among various types of networks and associations, with shared and mutually enriching interests and activities. Knowing more about other networks' reflections, planning and undertaking in practical sense, can be productive and motivating. Sometimes it can lead to joining forces in shared activities. This makes them much more effective vis-a-vis their own constituencies, and collectively much stronger in the international arena (never forget that in this context 2 + 2 could result in making 5!). Productive links, regular communication and active collaboration – let alone common activities and joined requests – make these entities all of a sudden a very different international actor, being noticed and hopefully also respected by various authorities, from the local to the international level. This network of networks could become a game-changer, via creating a virtual global community of entities engaged in the mentioned domains, and a very different negotiating partner to various authorities in their context.
The sustainability problematic is very wide and complex, and it will be covered by the SNN through several Thematic Domains – initially the following:
- Sustainable development models and policies;
- Environment protection;
- Gender issues and role of youth;
- Green agriculture, smart village and food safety;
- Health system, lifestyles and agreable longevity;
- Human capital development – specially post-secondary education and LLL;
- Silver economy and social gerontology;
- Innovation ecosystem, science and r&d;
- Informal urban action groups.
Each of the proposed and possibly additional thematic domains will be coordinated by a thematic domain coordinator – a person internationally recognized for expertise and active involvement in the respective domain. The coordinator will be free to organise the activities of the Domain linked to their experience, preferences and position in their organisation, as well as according to available funding.
Matrix of communication within the Sustainability Network of Networks
Besides this information, KEN online periodical publications will be distributed to all SNN members: monthly bulletin, bi-monthly brief, and occasional bibliographic bulletin on research in health and medical innovation compiled by prof. dr.Stephen Minger.
The activities and collaboration among SNN members will be supported by the technical secretariat primarily by the following services:
- Information on international developments in domains of sustainability and knowledge economy/society;
- Qualified insight into sustainable development good practices and success stories around the globe;
- Expert opinion on initiatives of SNN members - upon request;
- Consultations by KEN global expert pool to help partners and members to resolve specific problems on an agreed cost basis;
- Supporting campaigns vs. decision-making bodies and institutions – upon request;
- Effective communication with the international media to promote the cause of global sustainability;
- Training on specialised lobbying techniques and communication management;
- Representing partners and members in relevant international bodies and institutions;
- Providing contact information on entities active in respective sustainability thematic domains around the globe – facilitating cooperation and joint activities;
- Providing links to the most important international and national reports and studies, through an interactive and constantly updated bibliography;
- Announcements of relevant international conferences;
- Dissemination of relevant international statistics on knowledge economy and sustainability domains.
The primary service of the SNN Programme to its partners and members will be the provision of selected and highly relevant information on sustainability developments (problems and encouraging new developments), and actors introducing success stories and good practices. It will also offer invitations to join some international actions (awareness raising, petitions, etc) which will gain specific weight through their reputation, sheer number of participants, and geographical scope.
The SNN is proposed to connect entities engaged in various aspects of sustainable knowledge economy/society developments. Though it is difficult to anticipate any numbers, it is expected that within less than 2 years an impressive SNN membership should develop, covering all continents, thematic domains, and various profiles of organisations. The majority of membership is expected to be universities, research institutes, innovation-driven companies seeking to improve their sustainable management, relevant government agencies, the associations, and think tanks will probably make the majority of members. Networks and associations are expected to become KEN Partners, while their own members will gain on that basis associate membership rights.
Thematic domain coordinating institutions will automatically obtain partnership status in KEN network, and will be entitled to funding of their activities through contributions of foundations to be invited to support the SNN.
The table below summarises the rights and obligations of sponsors, partners, members, and associate members of KEN and SNN:
Functioning as a network of networks, it is expected to help partners and members to enhance their individual activities, and encourage their collaboration creating a bigger, combined impact, which could be expected through the following:
A – Broader sustainability awareness among professional and general public, as well as in political life of regions and countries concerned;
B – Support to putting pressure on authorities to pay more attention and undertake appropriate action through adoption of proper sustainable knowledge economy strategies, introduction of necessary legislation and administrative decisions, appointments of suitable people at critically important public offices, etc.);
C – Upgraded knowledge on effective and sharper argumentation and lobbying techniques (with supportive facts and figures) in campaigns and communications, making pressure of SNN members in line with public interest more productive;
D – Increased motivation to act – being encouraged by success stories of similar networks in the SNN and outside;
E – Mobilisation of larger numbers of individuals in order to reach the required critical mass expressing their opinion and demands through being encouraged by similar achievements elsewhere;
F – Receiving unexpected third partner support resulting in larger impact of individual activities;
G – Inidividuals to become more motivated to behave more sustainably.
In its role as a network of networks, the SNN will develop its activities as proposed by its partners and members. In other words, it will function primarily as their service. For major initiatives of the network, a decision of the appropriate body of SNN will be needed – either by the SNN steering committee, the KEN international advisory board, and in some cases also the KEN general meeting – depending on the nature of activity being proposed.