In the 1980s, based on his personal lived experience at the heart of poverty, Joseph Wresinski, founder of ATD Fourth World, identified three types of knowledge: academic knowledge, knowledge of action, and knowledge of the experience of people in poverty.
He noticed that these different kinds of knowledge never crossed or over-lapped with each other, and that the fight against poverty is perceived without the contributions of the thinking and experience of those fighting it in their daily lives.
From 1994 to 2001, two members of ATD’s Volunteer Corps, Claude and Francoise Ferrand, initiated a partnership with two Universities, a training center, and two experimental French-Belgian research programs. The project’s aim was to encourage the academic world to recognize, and take into account in its research, the thinking of people living in extreme poverty with a goal of impacting vocational training. These first experiments gave birth to the “Merging Knowledge” facilitation technique.
Today, this methodology of sharing knowledge and practices on the basis of equal respect has resulted in a new type of knowledge, a new savoir-faire, in social action, local democracy, education for all — and in association with the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research) in France.