Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
Enabling social learning and societal change
Thursday, 12/Sep/2019:
1:40pm - 3:20pm

Session Chair: David Simon
Location: Wallenbergsalen
Conference Centre Wallenberg

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Co-producing knowledge for societal change: Reflections on ten years of the CityLab programme in Cape Town

Warren Michael Smit, Mercy Brown-Luthango, Liza Rose Cirolia, Rike Sitas

University of Cape Town,

This paper reflects on ten years of knowledge co-production in Cape Town through the African Centre for Cities/ Mistra Urban Futures CityLab programme. The paper first examines the context of Cape Town, then discusses the CityLab programme as a response to the challenges and opportunities in Cape Town. The paper then focuses on how criteria were developed for evaluating the impact of the CityLab programme, and concludes by identifying key preconditions for the successful design and implementation of co-production processes.

The CityLab programme was initiated by the African Centre for Cities (ACC) in 2008 as an interdisciplinary applied research programme on sustainable urban development, intended to deal with real issues in a way that overcame disciplinary divides and the policy-practice divide. When ACC became the anchor of the Mistra Urban Futures Cape Town Local Interaction Platform in 2010, the CityLab Programme became one of the main programmes of the platform.

The CityLabs were essentially about bringing together relevant stakeholders to co-produce policy-relevant knowledge on the key urban challenges facing Cape Town, such as housing/informal settlements, crime and violence, climate change, and high rates of ill-health/disease. In all, there have been nine CityLabs, but this paper focuses on the second phase of the programme, which consisted of four CityLabs: Healthy Cities; Sustainable Human Settlements: Urban Violence, Safety and Governance; and Public Culture. The CityLabs involved bringing together academics, government officials, civil society, students, etc, in meetings/workshops, field visits and collaborative writing processes to co-produce joint publications that reflect a range of experiences and views (such as edited books, for example, on climate change adaptation/mitigation in Cape Town and on informal settlement upgrading). In addition, most of the CityLabs also involved undertaking collaborative research with innovative methodologies (such as the body mapping research of the Healthy Cities CityLab), co-producing new policies (e.g. the Human Settlements CityLab, which involved collaboration with the Western Cape Provincial Government on a new human settlements policy framework), capacity development (such as the national course for officials on addressing violence through upgrading, run as part of the Urban Violence, Safety and Governance CityLab), and co-designing and implementing innovative projects (e.g. the Public Culture CityLab, which implemented public art projects across Cape Town).

As co-production processes are different to conventional academic research processes, new criteria for evaluating the success of these processes had to be developed. These criteria included the extent to which different stakeholders were brought together (as reflected in participation in transdisciplinary workshops/seminars and research/writing processes), the extent to which different types of knowledge were integrated and created (as reflected by co-produced academic and non-academic outputs) and the extent to which the processes resulted in positive changes in policies and practices (as reflected in new policy/strategy documents and evidence from practitioners and from participant observation). The CityLabs were successful in meeting most of these criteria for success. The preconditions for this success were: (i) Having a pool of flexible funding that enabled the CityLabs to have open-ended approaches (i.e. identifying key stakeholders and bringing them together to decide on key issues and collaborative activities); (ii) Recruiting CityLab coordinators who were able to straddle the academic research/policy and practice divide (most came from an NGO background); (iii) Strong support from key stakeholders, particularly the City of Cape Town, Western Cape Provincial Government and University of Cape Town.

Smit-Co-producing knowledge for societal change-251.docx

Review of 20 transdisciplinary research cases: towards understanding the effects of design features on social learning

Agathe Osinski1, Pauline Herrero2, Tom Dedeurwaerdere1

1Université Catholique de Louvain (Belgium); 2Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour (France)

Our research contributes to the theme of “societal transformation”, one of three streams explored by this year’s International Transdisciplinary conference, by addressing the specific question: what experiences in initiating and fostering transformation processes do we have and what can we learn from them?

The research project we propose to present has two parts.

The first part aims at exploring in a systematic way the design features of transformative transdisciplinary research processes and the social learning that these processes generated among participants. To this end, we undertook a comparative analysis of twenty completed or nearly completed transdisciplinary research projects in the field of sustainable development. Over several months, we conducted interviews with the main investigators of transformative transdisciplinary research projects in order to understand their experience in the design of the approach they took. We examined how social learning was embedded in the interaction processes between new scientific knowledge, practitioners’ life-world experiences and social experimentation.

The analysis highlighted that the clarification of actors’ normative orientations, the collective co-construction of the research question and practical problem situation, as well as the balancing of power asymmetries were the most important criteria for the generation of social learning. Most importantly, their combination systematically increased the strength of the social learning generated in the cases we analysed. In some specific cases of transdisciplinary research, other criteria such as active facilitation modes and the presence of collective interest advocacy organisations played an important role in the generation of social learning.

The second part aims at investigating the working of these criteria in the design of a transdisciplinary project on food transition with an organisation working with the urban poor, in order to encourage the generation of transformative learning processes. In our presentation, we propose to briefly reflect on these by outlining the process and preliminary conclusions of the transdisciplinary project undertaken, through the analysis of ex-ante and ex-post interviews with the project participants.

Osinski-Review of 20 transdisciplinary research cases-135.docx

Transdisciplinary approaches in sustainability of socio-ecological systems studies. A methodology proposal for implementation and evaluation in three contrasting case studies. (Colombia, France & Mexico)

Aurélie Chamaret1, Driss Ezzine de Blas2, Jose Alvaro Hernandez3, Clara Ines Villegas Palacio4, Céline Lutoff1, Nicolas Buclet1, Sandra Lavorel5

1University Grenoble Alpes, France; 2CIRAD (French agricultural research and international cooperation organization); 3El Colegio de México; 4Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Medellín; 5CNRS, France

There has been growing injunctions to conduct research projects in a transdisciplinary (TD) approach, whether to respond to increasingly complex societal issues or to develop better quality research ("The best research is produced when researchers and communities work together", 2018).

Despite much work on the interest of these approaches, few comprehensive evaluations of transdisciplinary processes have been conducted. The majority of them are based on measuring the number of scientific publications, which does not reflect at all the relevance, credibility, and legitimacy of the research and its results for society (Hansson and Polk, 2018). However, evaluation is useful for several reasons (Wall et al., 2017): (1) evaluating the actual results of TD's approaches, (2) communicating on these effects if they exist, (3) benefiting from feedback to improve future processes and (4) assisting in the implementation of approaches.

Many research and methodological questions arise in conducting such a process: what is being evaluated (process, effects, outcomes)? How to measure (indicators, more global evaluation system)? Can an evaluation system be generic? Who should conduct the evaluation (internal or external expertise) ?

The Trajectories and Trasse projects focus on the adaptation of mountain and watershed socio-ecosystems to global changes in three countries: Colombia, France and Mexico. These projects affirm a strong willingness to conduct transdisciplinary research to help stakeholders move towards greater sustainability. However, the stakes are high because methodological developments are necessary, transdisciplinarity being a relatively imprecise concept for a large number of (academic and non-academic) actors involved in projects. In this perspective, the idea is to co-develop between researchers, for a first step, a process for evaluating the evaluation approaches. What we are trying to experiment in this work is based on two main pillars:

- how can an evaluation approach be a support to help implement a transdisciplinary process? What would be the benefits of having a kind of a shared quality charter/methodological guide from the beginning of a process, notably in terms of power relationships?

- Which aspects or dimensions of such an evaluation would be usable in a transversal way in any of the projects’ contexts and which would need to be specific?

The paper will present the framework we will have developed within the projects and a first test of it in an ex-ante use.

References :

Hansson, S., Polk, M., 2018. Assessing the impact of transdisciplinary research: The usefulness of relevance, credibility, and legitimacy for understanding the link between process and impact. Research Evaluation 27, 132–144.

The best research is produced when researchers and communities work together, 2018. . Nature 562, 7–7.

Wall, T.U., Meadow, A.M., Horganic, A., 2017. Developing Evaluation Indicators to Improve the Process of Coproducing Usable Climate Science. Weather, Climate, and Society 9, 95–107.

Chamaret-Transdisciplinary approaches in sustainability of socio-ecological systems studies A methodology.docx

Emergence from a living laboratory site for transformative change

Aditi Rosegger, Cynthia Mitchell

Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney

This presentation will explore Auroville, an international intentional community that has as its collective aim human unity in diversity, as a site for transformative change as it reconceptualises its water future. Auroville, which self-describes as a living laboratory comprising over 3000 individuals from 58 nationalities, is located in the state of Tamil Nadu in south India. Tamil Nadu is one of the most water-stressed areas in the world: sinking water tables and seawater intrusion are leading to severe social-economic and environmental issues, threatening livelihoods and both food and water security. Climate change and rapid growth have led to poor recent monsoon rains which are predicted to become increasingly variable in the future global change scenarios, with extreme rainfall events increasing and low-intensity rainfall events decreasing. In spite of Auroville’s transformative history of water management that has led to the reforestation of a once barren plateau (Blanchflower 2005), Auroville now needs to address looming water scarcity issues that also threaten the surrounding region. While Auroville is attempting to address these issues, it has not yet been able to tap into a space that can trigger the necessary transformations in its water governance. The impetus for engaging in this research originates from the motivation to work towards transformations to appropriately address and adapt to these changing conditions; to learn about what the unique setting of Auroville has to offer this process of transformative change and knowledge generation; and to trigger mutual learning for all participants in this research. This flows into the outcome spaces framework for transdisciplinarity (Mitchell, Cordell & Fam 2015) that identifies stocks and flows of knowledge, mutual learning and improvement of situation as indicators for transdisciplinary research.

Triggering long-term transformative change that outlasts this research appointment requires gaining access and tapping into the sense-making of this unique context. This in turn requires participatory engagement and advocates for a collaborative action research approach. In order to identify the appropriate leverage points, a first cycle of action research has been undertaken to engage the sense-making of community members. This first cycle employed interviews and discussions around the topic of water informed and enriched by the systems thinking method of ‘rich pictures.’ Analysis of these preliminary interactions revealed a coherent set of meaning-making levels in the narratives of this reflexive community, being individual, social and environmental. The reflections that emerged from this process will be shared, alongside elaborations of potential ways forward for enabling sustainable water governance through an action research process. The potentials and challenges of engaging in such a ‘site for change’ are explored in the context of generating transformative change. The sharing of insights and emergence from this reflexive community that self-describes as a living laboratory could further knowledge, understanding and learning for instigating transformative change elsewhere.

Rosegger-Emergence from a living laboratory site for transformative change-212.docx

FutureTalks: A Case Study in Transdisciplinary Co-production for Transformative Urban Sustainability

John Robinson2, Stephen Williams1, Blake Poland2, Cheryl Teelucksingh3, Wendy Wong2, Tamer El-Diraby2, Kim Slater2, Pani Pajouhesh2, Gregoire Benzakin2

1University of British Columbia; 2University of Toronto; 3Ryerson University

Can citizen engagement be configured to meet the evolving challenges of climate action and sustainability in urban areas? Cities are a key source of transformative change, where the degree of change required demands deep and meaningful engagement with our communities. However, effective methods for cultivating this type of engagement, particularly at larger scales, remain elusive for most decision makers. Our project, FutureTalks (FT): Community Co-creation for Transformative Urban Sustainability, will address these needs by conducting groundbreaking research on community engagement, involving 100,000 residents of Toronto, in partnership with public, private and civil society organizations. Our transdisciplinary approach to creating and testing new approaches to urban policy and decision-making integrates input from the public and our partners and combines this with interdisciplinary analysis. It involves partners as co-creators in problem definition, methods development, analysis and evaluation of alternative options and interpretation of results. The results will inform urban policy-making in Toronto and significantly advance our understanding of how to effectively engage citizens in critical issues about the future of the city.

Working with our partners, we are developing and implementing community engagement processes that use dialogical methods to explore and evaluate alternative futures for Toronto to the year 2050 at an unprecedented scale. We will do this in ways that include, and are respectful of, the many diverse communities and interests that exist in a large city, with a particular focus on equity-seeking and underrepresented groups. A key objective is to discover what future conditions are considered desirable by the many diverse communities of Toronto, how these preferences interact and may be combined, and their implications for policy and community action.

The focus of our work is on issues of climate change and urban sustainability, which are central preoccupations of cities around the world. We will address the complex interplay among specific sustainability problems (energy, water, biodiversity, mobility, social justice, etc.) that are often treated separately. Our engagement strategies will ask Torontonians to develop scenarios that explore the desirability, feasibility and consequences of different development path trajectories.

We have been working with our 15 partners for over two years in the co-design of this project. We are currently engaged in 3 funded pilot projects with FT partners and have other projects under development. This work has produced a co-developed methodology for both large-scale (high tech) and face-to-face (high touch) engagement processes. Our partners will continue to be actively engaged in the governance, design, and management of FT activities. We will build on the extensive engagement activities currently being developed and implemented by our partners, and develop new forms of engagement to extend and integrate these activities.

This project will test various approaches to community engagement and evaluate the societal impacts and effects of our engagement activities, in terms of their efficacy and representativeness, their short and longer-term impacts and their potential contribution to sustainability transitions.

This presentation will provide an overview of the project with a specific focus on transdisciplinary co-production methods of partnership development and collaboration. We will present the results of a recent FutureTalks symposium with partners. Symposium participants were guided through an assets mapping exercise that revealed opportunities for working collaboratively and leveraging resources in service of these intersecting mandates as part of, and independent from, the FutureTalks project.


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