Transformation through Participation? A critical inquiry into participatory research practices in the field of sustainability

Academic literature on the driving and constraining factors that shape the ways in which researchers, civil society actors, political decision-makers or entrepreneurs – i.e. actors with distinct forms of expertise - jointly define concerns and (co-)produce knowledge is scant and scattered over various thematic fields. If participatory TDR wants to be(come) a major tool for steering socio-ecological transformations and fostering sustainability, a deeper understanding and conceptualisation of the dynamics at play amongst those participating in TDR is pivotal. Our poster presentation addresses some of these shortcomings and feeds conceptual debates on how science can unleash its assumed transformative potential. Firstly, we will present preliminary results of a systematic literature analysis on conceptualisations of and experiences with participation and knowledge co-production in the largely parallel fields of Science and Technology Studies, TDR and development research. Bringing these research fields into conversation will contribute to a theoretical-conceptual sharpening of the notion of participation and will put literature-based factors that shape participation in sustainability-oriented research up for discussion. In so doing, we will highlight critical aspects of participation in the respective fields with a focus on the extent to which inter alia power relations, institutional structures, values and expectations, including the (self-)ascription of roles to the different actors, affect the participatory process at the science-society interface. Secondly, by relying on comparative case study analysis, we will complement the systematic literature analysis with reflections on preliminary empirical evidence. The findings presented will provide a basis for further assessments of why participation in some cases might contribute to sustainability transformations while in others it might perpetuate the societal status quo. Overall, our contribution aims at steering the debate on the strengths and weaknesses of participatory TDR as a leverage tool for transformation processes.


    • EPFL-POSTER-226378

    Record created on 2017-03-10, modified on 2017-11-20


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