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The major development agencies have ex cathedra ‘Official Views’ (with varying degrees of explicitness) on the complex and controversial questions of development. At the same time, knowledge is now more than ever recognised as key to development–in the idea of a ‘knowledge bank’ or knowledge-based development assistance. The author argues that these two practices are in direct conflict. When an agency attaches its ‘brand name’ to certain Official Views, then it becomes very difficult for the agency also to be a learning organisation or to foster genuine learning in its clients. A model of a development agency as an open learning organisation, which is in sharp contrast to other organisational models such as the Church or the party, is outlined. That, in turn, allows the agency to take a more autonomy compatible approach to development assistance with the assisted country ‘in the driver’s seat’ of a learning process rather than as the passive recipient of aid-sweetened policies from the agency.

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