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Negotiation of knowledge for coastal management? Reflections from a transdisciplinary experiment in South Africa

Hybrid science-society approaches for knowledge production are often framed by a transdisciplinary approach. Most forms of “linear” progression of science informing policy or the “production” of knowledge as a one-way process are increasingly being challenged. This is also true for coastal and marine sciences informing decision-making to support sustainable development of coastal areas. From the early 2010s, South Africa had one of the most progressive and well-structured frameworks for the establishment of integrated coastal management (ICM) in order to achieve societal objectives for its valuable coastal area. Even so, the implementation of the legislation, policies and guidelines remain a challenge, especially at the local level in municipalities. This paper reports on a social experiment that was intended to examine the possibility for a new knowledge negotiation process to unsettle the highly structured, nested and regular policy process, which forms the basis of ICM in South Africa. This paper reflects on an experimental application of a participatory methodology known as a “competency group to co-produce knowledge for coastal and marine management. The group members, a combination of codified, tacit and embedded knowledge holders, agreed to serve on a competency group and met on six occasions over a 12-month period in 2013. This group “negotiated” amongst themselves to achieve a common understanding of knowledge useful for the management of beach water quality on the Golden Mile, the prime beachfront of Durban, a South African city. The paper provides a novel lens into a potentially distinctive, challenging and imminently useful approach of co-producing knowledge for coastal governance, especially in a middle-income country where the social and political context is complex.

Paper Link:

Celliers, L., Scott, D., Ngcoya, M. et al. 2021. Negotiation of knowledge for coastal management? Reflections from a transdisciplinary experiment in South Africa. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications 8, 207

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