Stakeholder engagement primer: 1a. Why a primer? 1b. Defining stakeholders

By Gabriele Bammer

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1a. Why a primer?

Do researchers who want to engage with stakeholders need a basic set of skills? Can we define a skillset that will work for many problems and in a variety of contexts?

My starting point for this primer is that the answer to both questions is “yes” and I have set out to provide those basics in nine easy-to-read blog posts. The tenth blog post in the series sketches out selected additional “advanced” skills; these need more interpersonal competences, experience, and knowledge.

The advantages of using a blog over other forms of communication are that it provides a vehicle for input and feedback, as well as being widely accessible. Comments on each blog post are therefore very welcome, particularly examples and lessons from your own work, things you wish you had known when you were starting out, and general feedback and critique.

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Boosting the transformative power of transdisciplinarity with quantum theory

By Cyrille Rigolot

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Cyrille Rigolot (biography)

How can transdisciplinarity improve its ability to foster very deep, very fast and very large transformations toward sustainability?

Quantum theory might be a major source of insights in that direction. Although quantum theory is not new to transdisciplinarity, lately it has become much more accessible, practical, and potentially transformative on the ground.

Quantum theory for transdisciplinarity research

In the debates last century about the emerging transdisciplinary research field, quantum theory inspired theorist Basarab Nicolescu to develop three basic ‘axioms’, which he argues should be recognized at the core of transdisciplinarity research, namely:

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Communicating across organizational boundaries

By Adrian Wolfberg

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Adrian Wolfberg (biography)

What do researchers, stakeholders and end-users need to know about organizational boundaries so that they can communicate effectively when collaborating to build and achieve common goals? What does it mean to communicate effectively? How is shared meaning acquired? Why is it so difficult?

Organizational boundaries are socially constructed distinctions created intentionally to foster specific patterns of behavior by one set of individuals that are different from other sets of individuals. They have a double-edged value: positive and negative. On the positive side, creating boundaries potentially allows us to focus, and thereby deepen and specialize knowledge and activity. The negative side is control, where management and/or culture inflexibility thwarts the agility needed for crossing boundaries.

Boundaries come in many forms.

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Combining and adapting frameworks for research implementation

By Kirsty Jones and Sara Bice

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1. Kirsty Jones (biography)
2. Sara Bice (biography)

How can combining frameworks help plan a research implementation process? What specific contributions can different frameworks make?

In our research with industry, we found combining three frameworks to be an effective way to get handles on a complex implementation landscape and to design the necessary steps to systematically work our way through it. The frameworks we found useful were: a logic model, a pathway to impact and the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research, which we adapted to our context.

We provide four figures to show how we used each framework and briefly describe the benefits we derived from each of them. Although fully understanding the detail in the figures requires familiarity with the specifics of our research, we trust the figures provide insight into how each framework was used.

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Five questions to understand epistemology and its influence on integrative research processes

By Katie Moon, Chris Cvitanovic, Deborah A. Blackman, Ivan R. Scales and Nicola K. Browne

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1. Katie Moon; 2. Chris Cvitanovic; 3. Deborah A. Blackman; 4. Ivan R. Scales; 5. Nicola K. Browne (biographies)

How can we reduce the barriers to successful integrative research processes? In particular, how can we understand the different epistemologies that underpin knowledge?

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that asks: how do we know what we know? It is concerned with how we can ensure that knowledge is both adequate and legitimate, by considering:

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Transdisciplinary integration: A multidimensional interactive process

By Dena Fam, Julie Thompson Klein, Sabine Hoffman, Cynthia Mitchell and Christian Pohl

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1. Dena Fam; 2. Julie Thompson Klein; 3. Sabine Hoffman; 4. Cynthia Mitchell; 5. Christian Pohl (biographies)

The concept of integration is widely regarded as the crux of transdisciplinary research, education, and practice. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach or methodology. Projects and programs vary in purpose, scale and scope, problem focus, research question, mix of expertise, degree of coordination and communication, timing, and responsibility for integration. Based on findings in a study of integration we conducted (Pohl et al., 2021), we address four common questions to provide insights into transdisciplinary integration as a multidimensional interactive process.

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How can social network analysis benefit transdisciplinary research?

By Leonhard Späth, Rea Pärli and the RUNRES project team

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1. Leonhard Späth (biography)
2. Rea Pärli (biography)
3. RUNRES Project Team (participants)

Can we observe in a more analytical way how transdisciplinarity “happens”? How useful is social network analysis in transdisciplinary work, especially for uncovering the role of relationship structures? How can transdisciplinary concepts be used to map connections between those involved in transdisciplinary research?

A very brief introduction to social network analysis

Social network analysis is the study of connections between different people or any other social entity involved in the topic under investigation (referred to as actors), as well as the patterns of those connections and the distribution of the ties among actors.

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Six lessons for implementing technological change in developing country communities

By Jonathan Ensor, Daniel Vorbach, Steven Johnson and James Moir

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1. Jonathan Ensor (biography)
2. Daniel Vorbach (biography)
3. Steven Johnson (biography)
4. James Moir (biography)

How does the provision of new technology, infrastructure or community institutions interact with the social setting, especially at the village community level in developing countries? How does this interaction determine the sorts of changes that are experienced? Given this interconnection between the technical and social worlds, what are the implications for the design and implementation of interventions? And what does this more holistic perspective suggest that implementing agencies should be considering and advocating for alongside their on-the-ground activities?

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A tool for transdisciplinary research planning and evaluation

By Brian Belcher, Rachel Claus, Rachel Davel, Stephanie Jones and Daniela Pinto

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1. Brian Belcher; 2. Rachel Claus; 3. Rachel Davel; 4. Stephanie Jones; 5. Daniela Pinto (biographies)

What are the characteristics of high-quality transdisciplinary research? As research approaches increasingly cross disciplinary bounds and engage stakeholders in the research process to more effectively address complex problems, traditional academic research assessment criteria are insufficient and may even constrain transdisciplinary research development and use. There is a need for appropriate principles and criteria to guide transdisciplinary research practice and evaluation.

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Principles for welcoming all voices

By Keith McCandless

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Keith McCandless (biography)

Which principles would allow us to manage and lead groups that aspire to include all voices in shaping next steps and the future?

Liberating Structures is an approach to working together that puts innovative and facilitative power in the hands of everyone. It does this through 33 adaptable microstructures that allow groups of people of any size to be all-inclusive and to unleash everyone’s power.

Liberating Structures is based on ten principles that help guide choices and keep a community together while moving toward their set purpose.

Liberating Structures practice and principles come alive through active engagement. The path is co-evolving, iterative, and mutually shaped. As shown in the table below, each principle is couched as follows: When Liberating Structures are part of everyday interactions, it is possible to…

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Connecting and building capacity in the transdisciplinary research community

By Josefa Kny and David P. M. Lam

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1. Josefa Kny (biography) (photograph by Leyla Hoppe)
2. David P. M. Lam (biography)

What does the transdisciplinary research community want when it comes to building a global and virtual community, as well as capacity?

In developing a new interactive online platform, we surveyed 122 transdisciplinary researchers, mostly from German-speaking countries, and ran an online workshop with 27 early career transdisciplinary researchers from 8 European countries to assess what they would find most effective.

The key needs identified in the survey were to:

  • receive and share information on community- and capacity- building activities
  • have opportunities to network and discuss within an online community
  • share their own research projects and experiences.

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Theory of Change in a nutshell

By Heléne Clark

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Heléne Clark (biography)

How can you plan to make change happen or evaluate the effectiveness of actions you took? How can you link desired long-term goals with all the conditions that must be in place? How can you map out a step-by-step pathway that highlights your assumptions and expectations?

Theory of Change (ToC) is a graphic and narrative explanation of how and why a change process is expected to happen in a particular context.

At its heart, Theory of Change spells out initiative or program logic. It defines long-term goals and then maps backward to identify changes thought to be necessary to the goal that need to happen earlier (preconditions).

Theory of Change purports to explain change process in diagrammatically modeling all the causal linkages in an initiative, ie., its shorter-term, intermediate, and longer-term outcomes.

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