Presentation on theme: "Distilling or diluting: Addressing wicked problems at the research-policy interface Frances Cleaver Water for Africa Research Project School of Oriental."— Presentation transcript:
Distilling or diluting: Addressing wicked problems at the research-policy interface Frances Cleaver Water for Africa Research Project School of Oriental and African Studies
Knowledge versus action? At the start-up meeting for the 2.5 year Sustainable Management of the Usangu Wetlands Project ( SMUWC) in Usangu, SW Tanzania, the District Commissioner said No more studies: we want action In this he was reflecting a view commonly held by practical people, that research and investigation has little relevance to what does (or should) happen in real life.
Uncertainty reducers and creators Water governance works out through dynamic processes of power and negotiation, particularly at the interface between service providers and users. General principles must be balanced with context-specific initiatives and there is a particular need to work at the messy middle between policy-making and local level practices. Debunk the language, simplify the ideas. No nuances, no problems, just solutions. Policy makers as uncertainty reducers ( Haas) Academics as uncertainty creators?
Types of knowledge Burawoy (2006) suggests types of knowledge can be instrumental or reflexive and academic or non academic Policy knowledge is instrumental: knowledge in the service of problems identified by clients, characterised by its concrete and pragmatic nature Critical (academic) knowledge: produced by and for academics examining the value assumptions of research programmes, opening them up for discussion and debate.
Best practice and success stories …. In a consultation meeting on water resource management, aimed at informing DfIDs new water policy, a senior water advisor suggested that policy would be pragmatically shaped by experience of what has worked in the past. He called for those present to share their experiences of success stories in water resource management, to identify points of illumination to elucidate policy direction
….A poor guide for policy ? For Archer (1998) this reliance on best practice, rules of thumb etc results in a collection of mutually incompatible approaches, and a dislocation of the desirable outcomes from the conditions which produce them. Social Ontology Explanatory Methodology Practical Social Theory (world views)(cause and effect)(best practice) (Adapted from Archer, 1998)
Knowledge, policy and practice Dysfunctionality of research/policy relationship? 2 myths: (1)Rationality myth (evidence reduces uncertainty). (2) Power of science myth that researchers can provide such evidence at the times and in the forms required by policy makers. Collingridge and Reeve (1986) suggest that policy (being based on choices between political values) can be made with little information but should be flexible and subject to testing and modification.
Challenges for critical knowledge communities in water Reconciling legibility and complexity. Managing the tension between uncertainty and action. Maintaining critical reflection within the knowledge community.