Communities of Science and Practice Engage (CSPE) Network - The implementation gap in environmental initiatives through community engagement and public pedagogies

Partners on the project:

  • Dr Mia Perry – University of Glasgow (PI)
  • Daniel Haydon – University of Glasgow (Co-I)
  • Masego Ayo MPOTOKWANE – University of Botswana (Co-I)
  • Charles Masembe – Makerere University (Co-I)
  • Olekae Tsompi Thakadu – University of Botswana (Co-I)
  • Joseph Watuleke – Makerere University (Co-I)
  • Oitshepile MmaB Modise – University of Botswana (Co-I)
  • Hannington Bananuka Twine – Makerere University (Co-I)
  • Bonnie Lynn Slade – University of Glasgow (Co-I)
  • Dixon Olutade Torimiro – Obafemi Awolowo University (Co-I)
  • Sunday Adesola Ajayi – Obafemi Awolowo University (Co-I)

Dates: Jan 2017 – Oct 2018

Location: Scotland, Botswana, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda

Funding: ESRC

Project description: It is estimated that 70% of the population of Uganda, Botswana, Malawi and Nigeria directly depend on the rich biodiversity of their ecosystems for their livelihoods, health and well-being. These ecosystems are being damaged at alarming rates in conjunction with a deterioration of social, cultural, and economic prosperity. While research, innovation, and policy addressing these environmental and social realities is carried out nationally and internationally, these occur largely without community involvement or qualitative input, and mostly without successful implementation. The CSPE Network brings together environmental and social scientists in community and public pedagogies to address this apparent implementation gap. The CSPE Network sought to develop Innovation and Economic Growth by facilitating innovative cross-disciplinary and cross-sector collaborations to address biodiversity loss in engagement with the social, cultural, and economic factors experienced by communities through pilot projects (at least one per country).

Key findings: The key findings from this research are still emerging as we analyse and share the results from the interrelated but regionally-specific pilot projects that have been taking place from May 2017 to August 2018 (and some are still ongoing). However, even at this relatively early stage in our work, we have learnt, established, and begun to disseminate a huge amount of knowledge. This can be summarized in three key areas:

  1. The integral role of community knowledge and collaboration in sustainable development and development-related research and the common lack of methods to engage in that knowledge: Regardless of our geographical or disciplinary base (across disparate regions of Africa and the UK and across sciences, education, arts), we found a common absence of methods to meaningfully and ethically engage with communities from the beginning of the research endeavour. We are addressing this challenge actively and developing models of practice that we change and improve the research we move on to do.
  2. The complexity of partnerships in international and cross-cultural research: We have learnt that disciplinary expertise alone is insufficient to engage in interdisciplinary and international research. What has created success and sustainability in our work has been a commitment to empathy, understanding, and friendship across countries, knowledge, sectors, and contexts. The nature of the relationships we have forged in the research (at community level, at colleague level, at institutional level) has been a key determining factor of the integrity, the depth, and the efficacy of the research.
  3. Methodological Design: The main finding of our work so far has been the development of methodological tools to carry out development-related research in the field of socio-ecological sustainability. Our tools are focused on ethical, sustainable and successful research that addresses the needs of the affected communities in relation to the contexts of physical science, political science, cultural practice, and education.