Knowledge management is increasingly recognized as a relevant management approach within the development sector. However, few academic studies have analyzed the conceptual foundations of knowledge management practices in a development-specific context. As a result, the political dimensions of knowledge management are often overlooked. Through a literature review, illustrated with reference to examples from practice, this paper identifies a difference between latent goals and active knowledge management practices, which can lead to counterproductive development outcomes. The paper identifies the pitfalls and potentials associated with knowledge management in a development context and presents a conceptual framework that recognizes and builds on political dimensions of knowledge as discussed in participation and post-developmentalist debates. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.