An adaptive, systemic approach to community-led and engaged research

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Community Led and Engaged Research
Community Led and Engaged Research

An adaptive, systemic approach to community-led and engaged research

The Institute of Water Research (IWR) and Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at Rhodes University invite you to join a collaborative webinar discussion on how to ensure that impacts from scientific research are broadened, locally owned and lead to just and sustainable socio-ecologically transformative practices.

Date:                      25th February 2021

Time:                      10h00 to 11h45 (SAST)   

Presenter:             Prof. Carolyn (Tally) Palmer
Director, IWR at Rhodes University and the African Research University Alliance (ARUA) Water Centre of Excellence

Respondent:         Dr. Nontutuzelo Pearl Gola
South Africa National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) 

Chair:                     Prof. Cyril Nhlanhla Mbatha
Director of the ISER, Rhodes University



Every year millions of dollars are invested by governments and donor agencies on human and ecological development research initiatives. Sadly, some of the initiatives do not lead to their promised outcomes. When the research is completed, reports are written for funders and researchers pull out from the field. There is often weak local political, institutional and human capacity development achieved to complement the academic research, which would ensure that outputs and lessons learned from the field are locally adapted in ways that are transformative, just and sustainable.

This discussion presents and advocates an understanding and application of a novel, practical, integrative context and theory-based Adaptive Systematic Approach (ASA) to academic research to achieve true socio-ecological justice. This approach applies transformative, transdisciplinary, community-engaged processes to achieve both social and ecological justice. Emerging experiential cases of the approach are currently being documented in seven African countries, namely South Africa Nigeria, Senegal, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. This experimental approach to research is already presenting high value for policy makers, communities and funders in varied local contexts.      




Professor Tally Palmer

Director, Institute for Water Research (IWR) and the African Research University Alliance (ARUA) Water Centre of Excellence at Rhodes University

A seminal leader in the field of engaged transdisciplinary research and complexity-based, systems based approaches to integrated water resource management (IWRM), Prof Palmer helped to draft the 1998 SA National Water Act, was Director at the Institute for Water and Environmental Resource Management, Sydney University of Technology, Australia, Executive Director of Applied Research and Innovation at the National Research Foundation (NRF), and for many years led the Unilever Centre for Environmental Water Quality (UCEWQ). 


Trained as a riverine aquatic ecologist, she has extensive experience in aquatic ecosystem and pollution research and research applications in water resource management. Prof Palmer’s research focuses on the ways in which new thinking about complexity and integration can assist society to take account of a wide variety of data, information and knowledge in the search for innovative approaches to sustainability. She is passionate about applied research, specifically in the fields of adaptive water resources management, water governance, water quality and pollution, aquatic ecology, transdisciplinarity and resilience.



Dr Nontutuzelo Pearl Gola

South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)

Dr Gola is currently the Ecological Infrastructure Coordinator for the Greater uMngeni Catchment under the Ecological Infrastructure for Water Security Project at SANBI. She holds a PhD in Water Resource Science from Rhodes University. One of her key responsibilities is to support the coordination and continued functioning of the uMngeni Ecological Infrastructure Partnership (UEIP). The UEIP is a multi-sectoral stakeholder partnership of various institutions; comprising government, business, academia, and civil society; committed to finding ways of better integrating nature-based solutions into water resource management in the Greater uMngeni catchment. The partnership is based on the principle of collaborative water governance and focusses on the role that healthy functioning natural ecosystems play in supplementing hard infrastructure to improve water security at a catchment scale. This requires looking at the Greater uMngeni catchment as an integrated socio-ecological system and to improve capacity at all points along the science-society-policy-practice continuum.