Expert and Local Knowledge: Poverty Researchers Meet Community Leaders

  • Joachim Singelmann
  • Dudley L. PostonJr.
  • Rogelio Saenz
Part of the Applied Demography Series book series (ADS, volume 2)


Traditionally, research and its application have involved two different groups of people. Scientists typically generate the knowledge that enters the public arena through the vetting process of peer review and publication in professional journals. The scientific findings are then applied by various groups for their specific purposes, such as the following: extension agents in agriculture use the findings to inform farmers about best practices; nonprofit organizations make recommendations for specific programs; or government program planners use the knowledge for public policies. Nowhere in this process is there an explicit place for the experience and knowledge of local residents to be included in the planning process. For some issues, there might be public hearings, or the public is invited to make comments before directives are issued. But even at this stage, the locals would only have contact with the program managers, but not with those whose science was the basis for the specific programs. Yet, there is growing evidence emerging about the importance of knowledge gained on the ground from those who are directly affected by policies and, especially, from those whose participation is essential for the success of the policy implementation. According to this emerging body of research, policies and programs are most successful when they incorporate all three forms of knowledge: expert, managerial, and local knowledge. The purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate the usefulness and applicability of the types-of-knowledge framework for federal research projects and their extension efforts. To that end, the chapter will first review briefly some of the pertinent literature regarding different forms and types of knowledge in the context of development projects, with a particular focus on rural development. The review is followed by a summary of how, as part of a USDA-funded research project on poverty in the Mississippi Delta and the Texas Borderland, we set up town-hall meetings in six communities to facilitate the exchange of expert and local knowledge. We conclude the chapter with a discussion of the benefits of making such expert-local exchanges a part of research projects on economic and social development.


Local Actor Local Knowledge Poverty Rate Mississippi Delta Family Poverty 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We gratefully acknowledge the financial support by the U.S. Department of Agriculture which, through its National Research Initiative, funded our 3-year research project entitled “Race and Place: Patterns and Dynamics of Poverty in the Texas Borderland and the Lower Mississippi Delta” (Rural Development Program Grant #2006-35401-17432). We also thank the LSU Agricultural Center for its support for graphic design and travel to the Delta town-hall meetings. The project is a collaboration of Louisiana State University and Texas A&M University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joachim Singelmann
    • 1
  • Dudley L. PostonJr.
    • 2
    • 3
  • Rogelio Saenz
  1. 1.Department of DemographyUniversity of Texas at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  3. 3.Saenz College of Public PolicyUniversity of Texas at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA

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