High Reliability Knowledge Networks: Responding to Animal Diseases in a Pastoral Area of Northern Kenya
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How can reliability be generated and sustained in the face of uncertainty? This question is explored by examining knowledge networks among pastoralists and others in northern Kenya, emerging in response to a highly variable animal disease setting. Using quantitative and qualitative social network analysis, intersecting locally-embedded, development project and political networks are identified. Drawing on high-reliability theory, as applied to critical infrastructures, the paper explores the key characteristics of the knowledge networks in relation to systems, knowledges, relationships, technologies, professionals and politics. Reliability – the ability to provide stable services and respond variability in real-time – is shown to be related to the networked capacity to mobilise knowledge to confront uncertainty and avoid ignorance, with certain high-reliability professionals central. The locally-embedded network in particular has important characteristics of a high reliability knowledge network, but key brokers link to the development project and political network. Development challenges often require addressing uncertainty and even ignorance and lessons from high-reliability approaches can be crucial.