Open Learning for Inclusive Development

Photo By: World Bank Group

Submitted by Abha Joshi-Ghani, the director of leadership, learning and innovation at the World Bank Group.

In his landmark book The Learning Society, the eminent economist Joseph Stiglitz made an important observation: that what truly separates developed from less developed countries is advances in technology and not the accumulation of capital. What separates developed from developing countries is the gap in knowledge and how quickly this gap is closed through learning.

To understand how countries grow and develop, it is essential to know how they learn and what can be done to promote the translation of knowledge into practical tools. But here is the dilemma: having knowledge is not the same thing as using or disseminating knowledge. Appropriate pedagogy needs to be applied to this knowledge to skillfully convert the knowledge into useful learning and know-how.

The World Bank Group may well be the single-largest producer of world-class knowledge on development issues. However, the impact of this knowledge can only be fully realized when we transform it into usable, actionable learning for our staff, our clients and other development actors. Today, only a miniscule portion of the vast knowledge generated at the World Bank Group is converted for easy access and wider use. In fact, much it not even properly documented, but rather locked in our minds and experiences.

An even larger body of knowledge and insights are collectively held by many outside of the World Bank – policymakers, technical experts, researchers, technology innovators, activists, businesses, donors, NGOs, and social entrepreneurs, to name a few. The international development community collectively possesses a treasure trove of knowledge and know-how that remains fragmented, inaccessible or unusable to most.

The deepening, sharing and democratization of high quality learning is critical if we are to co-create the best possible solutions for tough development problems. We need learning and problem-solving to happen at all levels of society: from the grassroots to the top echelons – and we need to pierce the institutional and geographic veils that impede optimal collaboration and knowledge-sharing.

OLC: A Learning Ecosystem for Global Development

In recent months, we have been asking ourselves how the World Bank Group can best catalyze learning as a public good for the development community. How do we bring together the best knowledge and practices as actionable learning? The unfolding revolution in digital technology and online learning has lent impetus and imagination to this inquiry. We believe that harnessing innovative technology and pedagogy will allow us to simultaneously deliver scale, reach, and individual relevance. This future of learning is thankfully not a matter of sitting in a classroom and listening to a lecture. It needs to be available to us at our fingertips, conveniently timed and sized to our needs.

Seamlessly blending content and collaboration is precisely the vision of the recently launched Open Learning Campus (OLC). OLC is thoughtfully integrating innovations in technology and instructional design, such as open courseware, collaborative learning, games, and even mobile formatting, to provide quality learning at low unit cost. At its inaugural phase, OLC already offers 500 courses, 3,500 bite-sized learning programs, and 50 communities of practice. Responding to diverse needs and circumstances of learners, the growing OLC content is being organized in three distinctive formats:

  • Talks: Video talks and podcasts by experts and advocates

  • Academy: Structured learning including self-paced or facilitated e-courses, bite-sized modules, and MOOCs on key development issues. We have already offered six MOOCs with topics ranging from climate change to citizen feedback and many more are being planned

  • Communities: Networks, communities of practices, and just-in-time South-South knowledge exchange to support dialogues and problem-solving among peers

The OLC has been initiated by the World Bank, but it is not for the World Bank alone. OLC is premised on the belief that inclusive development requires open, inclusive learning. Join us and become an active member of this learning commons.


Abha Joshi-Ghani is the director of leadership, learning and innovation at the World Bank Group. Joshi-Ghani will will be speaking at the InterAction Forum workshop, "Creating a Culture of Knowledge Sharing and Learning Within Organizations Large and Small" as part of the Future and Evolution track on Tuesday, April 19. 

Editor's Note: This blog is part of a series highlighting the various workshop tracks at Forum 2016. Check back every day until April 15 for a new blog!

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