Guide Simple Guide for learning how to learn

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This is the simple guide to learning how to learn:


Have you ever wanted to learn, but you aren't good at learning and you get discouraged. well let me take you on a story and I hope you learn some things about learning how to learn. Firstly, How to Learn Together, Apart Ewan Jones 12 June 2020 If, in years to come, an intrepid researcher writes a dissertation upon the history of technology-assisted synchronous learning, her or his first chapter may well find room for 7 January 1977. It was on this day that the Collège de France attempted what it didn’t yet call a simulcast of Roland Barthes’s inaugural lecture, Barthes having recently been elected to the chair of Sémiologie Littéraire.1 The Collège live broadcasted the proceedings to the overspill of students unable to access the main lecture hall. Barthes’s performance uncannily anticipates the present order to which, with drastic quickness, we’ve become accustomed. Claude Coste notes that “the first session in particular suffered a number of interruptions: the retransmission not working, the irritated amusement of the students, having to send out for a technician, Barthes’s own embarrassment at the many technical failings.”2 This anecdote reassures me whenever I loiter in the limbo of a Zoom waiting room. In addition to its means of delivery, the substance of Barthes’s lectures has much to say to our present selves.
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The first course of public talks and seminars that he delivered from January–May 1977, under the nearly impossibly large title Comment vivre ensemble, parallels and prefigures our contemporary world so uncannily that at times I wonder whether it’s a trick of the lockdown-induced paranoid mind. Barthes surveys a wide variety of isolated, ascetic, or otherwise self-distancing communities: the quotidian Critical Inquiry 47 (Winter 2021) © 2021 by The University of Chicago. 00093-1896/21/47S2-0020$10.00. All rights reserved. 1. See Roland Barthes, “Lecon Inaugurale au Collège de France,” 7 Jan. 1977, ubusound .memoryoftheworld.org/barthes_roland/Barthes-Roland_Lecon-inaugurale-au-College-de-France -7-Janvier-1977.mp3 2. Barthes, How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of Some Everyday Spaces, trans. Kate Briggs (New York, 2013), p. xviii; hereafter abbreviated H. rituals of monastic life in Mount Athos; the sanatorium in which Hans Castorp intended only to spend a few days; the small room in which Blanche Monnier was sequestered for twenty-five years by parents disappointed by her refusal of an eligible marriage, and who later inspired André Gide’s “Confined Woman of Poitiers.” “What distance must I maintain between myself and others if we are to construct together a sociability without alienation, a solitude without exile?” (H, p. xxv). Barthes was, as with much besides, the inadvertent prophet of COVID-19. The laundry van that hit Barthes requires us to start thinking where his unfinished lectures left off.
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I’ve been using the hyphenated thoughts and trailing ellipses of Comment vivre ensemble as essential tools to help me make sense of and stay sane through the current times in which we live. Barely a half day goes by without my being reminded of a concept that Barthes borrows from Jacques Lacarrière’s L’éte grec: idiorrhythmy—a constraining social space that nevertheless does not preclude individual freedom. Quotidian lockdown life is itself an idiorrhythmic case study. A conversation just the other day with a colleague, returned to care for her frail and elderly mother, Zooming her students as the distinguished academic that she is, from a childhood bedroom that reminds her of the child that she also still is. (She was shaken from her scholarly reflections when, through the window, she saw her mother, hanging laundry, fall.) My students, attempting as best they can to curate bare bookshelves in houses where reading was not encouraged. My own experience, stranded in an unfamiliar city, ordering cheap and pathetically small prints of artworks by Amy Sillman and Georges-Pierre Seurat, which I pin to the white walls of my unfamiliar apartment, just as when young I used to glue culture cut from newspapers (I was terrified that I would lose it). Art for art’s sake, revealed for what it always was: a means of getting through the day. The pandemic has enabled an efflorescence of thoughts on the modalities of isolated thinking and feeling—to which the Critical Inquiry blog has provided signal contributions.3 As a means of opening up a dialogue with work that has sustained me, I want for the remainder of this disquisitioncum-diary-entry to pick up and carry further Irina Dumitrescu and Caleb Ewan Jones is a lecturer in English at Cambridge and a fellow of Downing College. He has just finished a second book on the history of the concept of rhythm in the nineteenth century and is working on a series of oblique pedagogical strategies that seek to extend and to deform historical practices of close (or slow) reading, looking, and listening. 3. See “Posts from the Pandemic,” In the Moment, critinq.wordpress.com/2020/04/28/posts -from-the-pandemic/ S124 Ewan Jones / How to Learn Together, Apart Smith’s discussion of lockdown distraction, which itself shares much in common with Barthes’s considerations of monastic cohabitation.4 What follows are flash reflections (half-cooled hot takes) on what the continuing pandemic might entail both for critical theory and applied pedagogy. I list these two aspects of life and thought as if they were separate, when what I really want is to heal their rift. First, critical theory. COVID-19 doesn’t only append a further compelling case study to the several recent scholarly treatments of attention; it radically alters the position from which any theorist of distraction speaks. Much of the most distinguished work in this field has considered cultures of attentiveness (or inattentiveness) from a broadly Foucauldian or immanently critical perspective.5 Yet such work often betrays a revealing tension, between a onesize-fits-all process of subjectivation through which societies trammel or compel or mutilate attention and the curious freedom of the critical theorist to (undistractedly) read artworks or conduct often brilliantly erudite ideology critique. The present pandemic disallows us that privileged freedom: if nothing else, COVID-19 might help us to acknowledge the cognitive distractions and corporeal fatigue that always operate but which are now raised to a new and possibly useful level. In so doing, we might undo the distance between subjects and objects of knowledge; we might view the many previous cultures of distraction (ranging from the religious communities that mortified the senses, to the manual workers who labor automatically or involuntarily, to the nineteenth-century psychophysiologists who willfully overextend cognitive reach) not merely as pathologies or casualties of society but also as prospective resources. Immanent critique might then finally assume the concrete form to which it more often than not only pays lip service. Such questions are to my mind inseparable from our teaching practice. In his Literary Criticism: A Concise Political History, Joseph North proposes “radical pedagogy” as one means by which the humanities might heal its diremption from social praxis.6 I could not agree more vehemently, while at the same time wishing for a clearer sense of what such practice might entail, beyond a charismatic reading that compels assent.
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I teach English at Downing College, where decades ago F. R. Leavis famously held court; returning alumnae often tell me how much his forcefulness depended upon the small-group 4. See Irina Dumitrescu and Caleb Smith, “The Demon of Distraction,” in “Posts from the Pandemic,” an online supplement to Critical Inquiry 47 (Winter 2021): S77–81. 5. A representative instance is Jonathan Crary’s Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture (Cambridge, Mass., 1999). 6. Joseph North, Literary Criticism: A Concise Political History (Cambridge, Mass., 2017), p. 107. Critical Inquiry / Winter 2021 S125 supervision. We cannot now gather in such small rooms for the foreseeable future (on the morning that I write this, my university has just announced that all lectures for the 2020/21 academic year will be conducted online). Yet this sad eventuality might enable forms of pedagogy less dependent upon charisma: “perhaps the ideal lecture course would be one,” Barthes selfdeflatingly declared, “where the professor—the locutor—is less interesting than his audience” (H, pp. 133, 134.). And yet even Barthes struggled in this respect. He had intended the thirteenth and concluding lecture of Comment vivre ensembleto take up the varying responses of his audience and by so doing produce a practical instance of “Living Together.” As things transpired, however, the session did not take place, with Barthes retreating (with uncharacteristic bashfulness) behind the dialogical yet defiantly written form of A Lover’s Discourse (1977), on which he was concurrently engaged (see H, pp. 130–31.). But I believe that spatial constraints and technological innovations, which COVID-19 has thrust upon us, can inspire us to recover Barthes’s cancelled utopia of pedagogical idiorrhythmy. Not, perhaps, by adopting the forms of instantaneous feedback that increasingly characterize digital life: I am not calling for students to annotate lectures as they can new music tracks via SoundCloud, or to “react,” live on YouTube, to literature or to taught content. (Though why not? Such experiments might prove valuable, particularly if they reconnect students to the immediacy and gesturality of aesthetic response.) Rather, I’ve been developing over the past weeks a range of technologically mediated pedagogical exercises that intend both to extend and to reorient the forms of close and slow looking and listening that have historically characterized our critical practices. They include: asking undergraduate students to curate their own bedrooms, by cutting out images from newspapers or printing photographs from the internet so as to produce an exhibition in which they live; “paraphrasing” the television or Netflix series upon which for excellent reasons they need to binge into a prosodic form (ottava rima, Spenserian stanzas, and others) that they choose or that is chosen for them— or the relating of a given poem to the texture of objects in their immediate environment, so as to focus attention upon the tactile experience that has not only been overlooked by so much art criticism but also prohibited by the pandemic. Such exercises might provide means not only of reanimating our own pedagogical approaches but also of building tentative bridges to other forms of communal or institutional life with which higher education presently seems to hold little in common. I don’t know about you, but most days I spend some of the time feeling like the teacher of literature that I am, sometimes S126 Ewan Jones / How to Learn Together, Apart like a prisoner fortunate enough to have a stable internet connection, sometimes like an insatiably curious child, sometimes like a prematurely retired person trying to stave off early-onset cognitive degeneration. We all are all these things. COVID-19 is not a crisis that we can afford to waste.
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Transdisciplinary research for systemic change: who to learn with, what to learn about and how to learn Dirk J. Roux1,2 • Jeanne L. Nel2,3 • Georgina Cundill4,5 • Patrick O’Farrell3,6 • Christo Fabricius2 Received: 18 August 2016 / Accepted: 6 June 2017 / Published online: 16 June 2017 Springer Japan KK 2017 Abstract A key aim of transdisciplinary research is for actors from science, policy and practice to co-evolve their understanding of a social–ecological issue, reconcile their diverse perspectives and co-produce appropriate knowledge to serve a common purpose. With its concurrent grounding in practice and science, transdisciplinary research represents a significant departure from conventional research. We focus on mutual learning within transdisciplinary research and highlight three aspects that could guide other researchers in designing and facilitating such learning. These are: ‘‘who to learn with’’, ‘‘what to learn about’’ and ‘‘how to learn’’. For each of these questions, we present learning heuristics that are supported by a comparative analysis of two case studies that addressed contemporary conservation issues in South Africa but varied in scale and duration. These were a five-year national-scale project focusing on the prioritisation of freshwater ecosystems for conservation and a three-year local-scale project that used ecological infrastructure as a theme for advancing sustainability dialogues. Regarding the proposed learning heuristics, ‘‘who to learn with’’ is scale dependent and needs to be informed by relevant disciplines and policy sectors with the aim of establishing a knowledge network representing empirical, pragmatic, normative and purposive functions. This emergent network should be enriched by involving relevant experts, novices and bridging agents, where possible. It is important for such networks to learn about the respective histories, system processes and drivers, values and knowledge that exist in the social–ecological system of interest. Moreover, learning together about key concepts and issues can help to develop a shared vocabulary, which in turn can contribute to a shared understanding, a common vision and an agreed way of responding to it. New ways of group learning can be promoted and enhanced by co-developing outputs (boundary objects) for application across knowledge domains and creating spaces (third places) that facilitate exchange of knowledge and knowledge co-production. We conclude with five generic lessons for transdisciplinary researchers to enhance project success: (a) the duration, timing and continuation potential of a project influences its prospects for achieving systemic and sustainable change; (b) bridging agents, especially if embedded within an implementing agency, play a critical role in facilitating transdisciplinary learning with enhanced outcomes; (c) researchers need to participate as co-learners rather than masters of knowledge domains; (d) purposeful mixedparadigm research designs could help to mend knowledge fragmentation within science; and (e) researchers must be vigilant for three pitfalls in mutual learning initiatives, Handled by Alexandros Gasparatos, IR3S, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan. & Dirk J. Roux dirk.roux@sanparks.org 1 Scientific Services, South African National Parks, Private Bag X6531, George 6530, South Africa 2 Sustainability Research Unit, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Private Bag X6531, George 6530, South Africa 3 Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Natural Resources and the Environment, P.O. Box 320, Stellenbosch 7599, South Africa 4 Department of Environmental Science, Rhodes University, P.O. Box 94, Grahamstown 6130, South Africa 5 International Development Research Centre, P.O. Box 8500, Ottawa K1G 3H9, Canada 6 Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa 123 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 DOI 10.1007/s11625-017-0446-0 namely biases in participant self-selection, perceived superiority of scientific knowledge and the attraction of simple solutions to wicked problems that retain the status quo. Keywords Bridging agent Boundary objects Engaged science Learning heuristics Transdisciplinary learning framework Introduction Science and technological innovation were spectacularly successful drivers of social and economic development during most of the twentieth century. These drivers have helped humans to achieve their current position of dominance on Earth, to the extent that the actions of people have become a threat to the planet’s biophysical support base (Barnosky et al. 2012; Rockstro¨m et al. 2009). As a result, there is a call on science to respond to one of the most pressing issues of our time, namely to understand the interdependent relationship between human well-being and diverse, functioning ecological systems, and to guide humanity towards a more sustainable relationship with nature (Lubchenco 1998). Furthermore, relevant knowledge should be produced in ways that help overcome the divide between science and practice (Van Kerkhoff and Lebel 2006; Cornell et al. 2013; Clark et al. 2016) to create a complementary interplay between scientific knowledge production and institutional innovation (Woodhill 2010). The above challenge is at least in part being met by the emergence and increasing prominence of a number of research and management approaches focussed on addressing complex social–ecological issues. Management approaches include adaptive management and adaptive comanagement (Armitage et al. 2008), while research approaches include post-normal science (Funtowicz and Ravetz 1993), sustainability science (Clark and Dickson 2003) and transdisciplinary research (Hirsch Hadorn et al. 2008). These approaches are not necessarily mutually exclusive; for example, transdisciplinarity has been identified as a key aspect of sustainability science (Komiyama and Takeuchi 2006; Kates 2011). Here, we largely draw upon, and build on, the concept of transdisciplinary research. The aim of transdisciplinary research is for actors from academia, policy and/or practice domains to co-evolve their understanding of a social–ecological issue, reconcile their diverse perspectives and co-produce appropriate knowledge to serve a common purpose (Hirsch Hadorn et al. 2010; Lang et al. 2012; Young et al. 2014). Such an engaged research approach can expose participants to multiple perspectives regarding the pressing issues in social–ecological systems, creating an enriched picture of such issues and potentially uncovering complementarities across diverse knowledge systems (Polk 2014; Tengo¨ et al. 2014). A requirement of transdisciplinary research is to enable mutual learning processes among researchers representing different disciplines as well as actors from outside academia (Russell et al. 2008; Stauffacher et al. 2008; Mobjo¨rk 2010). However, learning across diverse knowledge systems is challenging and often characterised by misunderstanding, power plays, disagreement and tension (Cook et al. 2013). For knowledge to disperse, it is necessary to make knowledge domains (and their boundaries) more permeable, while maintaining the functional integrity of the contributing knowledge system. Such ‘‘boundary work’’ (Guston 2001; Mollinga 2010; Van Kerkhoff and Lebel 2006) is enabled by bridging agents. These individuals can ‘‘make it happen’’ and have been variously named boundary spanners, intermediaries and institutional entrepreneurs. They have been linked to a variety of skills and competencies such as developing social networks and building trust, legitimacy and social capital (Harris and Lyon 2013; Westley et al. 2013). Bridging agents are skilled at social facilitation and can create specialised interfaces between external knowledge sources, research teams and various participating actors. They can also translate knowledge and facilitate bidirectional transfers across relevant knowledge boundaries. Facilitating transdisciplinary research to improve society’s capacity to learn about (and respond to) a changing world sounds like a noble purpose. However, with its concurrent grounding in practice and science, transdisciplinary research represents a significant departure from conventional research. Academics and practitioners alike tend to believe in the superiority of their knowledge, especially when supported by hard data or personal experience (Berbe´s-Bla´zquez et al. 2016), creating a significant obstacle to mutual learning. It may not be intuitive for unversed researchers to prepare themselves to participate in, or facilitate, the mutual learning processes that are part of transdisciplinary research. Creating such transdisciplinary environments for effective learning can be important in order to address the significant sustainability challenges in African contexts, but the need for capacity and resources to achieve this must be recognised (Reyers et al. 2010). In this paper, we explore the role that researchers can play as bridging agents in designing and maintaining systemic learning processes (spanning relevant actors of a particular social–ecological system) as part of their transdisciplinary endeavours. We use a novel transdisciplinary learning framework that draws from two case studies in South Africa to reflect on three questions that we consider 712 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 123 foundational to learning in transdisciplinary research: ‘‘who to learn with’’, ‘‘what to learn about’’ and ‘‘how to learn’’. We conclude by presenting generic insights for consideration in the design of similar research initiatives in other parts of Africa and beyond. Methodology Research approach This paper draws on two transdisciplinary research projects that addressed contemporary conservation issues in South Africa. The two projects are used as case studies to extract important insights for learning in transdisciplinary settings. They were chosen based on the authors’ direct involvement with them (i.e. two authors were involved with both projects and three authors with one of the projects each), their marked variation in scale and duration, well-documented project specifications and achievements to draw on, and their respective transdisciplinary research designs (see below). As transdisciplinary researchers we co-learned with other actors and at the same time influenced the evolution of the ‘‘group story’’ (Hampton, 2004), and thus the ways of relating to and understanding the relevant social–ecological systems and issues (Paschen and Ison 2014) in the respective case studies. As bridging agents we were also compelled to learn about project design criteria that could influence learning proficiency and equitable participation. We asked three questions to reflect on our learning through these transdisciplinary experiences: who to learn with, what to learn about and how to learn? Based on our observations and experiences in the two projects, a number of answers (or rather learning heuristics) emerged for each of the questions. These heuristics were refined through ongoing reflections that happened informally and opportunistically during the course of (as well as subsequent to) the respective projects, spanning a period of 10 years. Early heuristics helped to inform the design of the second case study, and in this way, heuristics and design modifications emerged through iterative refinement. For this paper, we select two heuristics for each question based on their perceived robustness for each case study project, relative novel contributions to the transdisciplinary literature, and potential for generic application. The selected heuristics are not mutually exclusive (as can be expected from complex learning processes) nor are they intended to be all inclusive. Rather they serve as ‘‘rules of thumb’’ or a starting point to support transdisciplinary learning. The questions and selected heuristics are presented as a framework for transdisciplinary learning (Fig. 1). We then used the framework to inform a comparative analysis of the case studies. The resulting insights are grounded in theories and concepts from a broad spectrum of research fields, including stakeholder engagement, social learning and knowledge coproduction. Case studies National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Area (NFEPA) project Systematic conservation planning provides a widely accepted approach for identifying and prioritising ecosystems for protection (Kukkala and Moilanen 2013; Margules and Pressey 2000). The systematic approach to conservation planning focuses on conserving a representative suite of biodiversity, often driven by quantitative targets (Carwardine et al. 2009). Such targets can, for example, be to effectively conserve 17% of Earth’s terrestrial and inland water ecosystems by 2020, as specified by the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Targets (CBD 2011). While 30 years of refinement has made systematic conservation planning a sophisticated tool, effective implementation of the resulting conservation plans remains a challenge (Knight et al. 2008). Implementation of conservation plans could benefit from a number of institutional enablers, including political endorsement of conservation targets, a conducive policy environment and mandated agencies with awareness, sense of ownership and appropriate capacity to achieve conservation outcomes (Roux and Nel 2013). In addition to the technical approach of identifying priority areas for biodiversity conservation, an implementation orientation requires enhancing the ‘‘absorptive capacity’’ (i.e. ability to identify, assimilate, transform and apply valuable external information) of knowledge implementers (Cohen and Levinthal 1990). This was explicitly attempted during the design of a freshwater conservation plan for South Africa (Murray et al. 2011). The multi-year (2006–2011) NFEPA initiative had dual aims to: (1) identify spatial conservation priorities (referred to as Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas or FEPAs) in a scientifically credible manner and (2) develop an institutional basis for the effective conservation and management of these FEPAs (Roux and Nel 2013). Unlike earlier freshwater conservation plans for South Africa, the national-scale NFEPA initiative achieved significant traction with intended users (Roux and Nel 2013). In the relatively short time since their publication in 2011 (Driver et al. 2011; Nel et al. 2011a), the FEPA products have enjoyed remarkable uptake in policy and management tools for freshwater ecosystems (Nel et al. 2016). This has contributed to a systemic and notable change in the Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 713 123 discourse on the management and protection of freshwater ecosystems. The NFEPA initiative has played out, partly by design and partly by serendipity, as a transdisciplinary research process (Audouin et al. 2013; Cundill et al. 2015; Funke and Nienaber 2012; Nel et al. 2016). The project team consisted of members from various national agencies including end-users of the ultimate products (Table 1). Team members fulfilled the role of bridging agents and facilitated mutual learning across multiple institutional boundaries spanning national and provincial government as well as water, conservation and land-use planning sectors (Nel et al. 2016). Wilderness ecological infrastructure project Ecological infrastructure refers to functioning ecosystems that deliver valuable services to people. Examples of ecological infrastructure include strips of riparian vegetation that filter pollutants from water (Kemper 2001), wetlands that slow down flood waters (Kemper 2001), or coastal and estuarine ecosystems such as salt marshes and foredunes that can contribute to erosion control or absorb the impacts of sea storms (Barbier et al. 2011). When neglected or eroded by human activity, ecological infrastructure declines slowly and unnoticeably until a surprise event such as a flood, coastal surge, fire or drought occurs, which makes the decline instantaneously relevant, due to the associated debilitating economic, social and political impacts (Dobson et al. 2006; MA 2005). In South Africa, ecological infrastructure has been introduced into the development and policy domains as a term for engaging with infrastructure development, where it is framed as the nature-based equivalent of built infrastructure (Driver et al. 2012). Typically, the benefits/contributions of ecological infrastructure are not easy to quantify. Furthermore, they are not well studied and therefore somewhat obscure in the minds of decision-makers (Reyers et al. 2015). Yet, its relation to other forms of infrastructure (such as built infrastructure) may make the concept of ecological infrastructure sufficiently compatible with existing knowledge at local levels of governance to aid its adoption. The 3-year Wilderness project aimed to use ecological infrastructure as a theme for exploring how decisionmakers and landscape managers understood and responded to new scientific understanding, environmental change and sustainability challenges (Table 1). The project focussed on a small drainage basin along the south coast of South Africa (Wilderness River Basin), which contain wideranging land uses including a dairy farming community, Ramsar wetlands, a coastal village and parts of a national park (O’Farrell et al. 2015). Because the Wilderness project aimed to promote social–ecological transformation towards a more sustainable future in the Wilderness River Basin, it was designed with a transdisciplinary research process in mind. The project team consisted of researchers from a national research council and a university and relied heavily on the contributions of postgraduate students. Fig. 1 Summary of the transdisciplinary learning framework that emerged from the case studies and was used for their comparative analysis. The various learning heuristics can be used as principles to strive for in the design and execution of transdisciplinary research initiatives 714 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 123 Table 1 Characteristics of the two case studies NFEPA project Wilderness project Duration 5 years (2006–2011); relationships had already been built with several relevant agencies through basin-scale projects that preceded NFEPA 3 years (2012–2015) Scale National (South Africa) Local—relatively small drainage basin (Wilderness Lakes and Touw River) Funding mechanism Consortium of funders: WRC, CSIR, SANBI, WWF, DWS. SANParks, DEA and SAIAB contributed in kind (salaries). Project coordinated through WRC mechanisms and steered through both advisory and technical Reference Group meetings at major project milestones. WRC, based on annual call for funding of unsolicited research proposals. Steered through annual meetings of a Reference Group (constituted by the funder) against pre-defined and pre-scheduled deliverables (although the funder was open to negotiating mid-course adaptations) % of budget allocated for transdisciplinary engagement 60 47 Main actors involved Researchers (CSIR, SAIAB and universities) Water resource managers (national and provincial government departments) Conservation agencies (national and provincial) Environmental consultants Researchers (CSIR, NMMU) Commercial resource users (dairy farmers and foresters) Recreational users (conservancy) Subsistence users (local community) Civil society (ratepayers and residents association) Service delivery (municipality and conservation agency) Bridging agents Fairly senior project team with established networks and social capital in both the water and conservation communities, including members from national government departments and conservation agencies University staff on the project team including senior professor and students residing in the study area (i.e. ‘‘community-embedded’’ researchers) Forums for transdisciplinary engagement (mutual learning) Five sub-national workshops (3 days each) in regional city centres Three basin-level pilot studies (chosen on representation and user readiness) Biodiversity Planning Forum (conservation planning community of practice) Freshwater Ecosystem Network (community of practice to connect managers in the water and the environmental sector) One national workshop Training workshops in three regional centres Local community forums Focus group meetings Dialogues Local media Main products Atlas of FEPAs (Nel et al. 2011a) Implementation manual (Driver et al. 2011) Technical report describing science (Nel et al. 2011b) Data and information portal (http://bgis.sanbi.org/ Projects/Detail/48) Papers and presentations (e.g. Nel et al. 2016; Roux and Nel 2013) Project report (O’Farrell et al. 2015) Newspaper and popular science articles Student dissertations (Buckle 2016; Crisp 2015; Mc Culloch 2016; Roos 2015) Desired outcomes A new narrative in regulatory agencies Management impact Policy impact New knowledge network New narrative in the Wilderness community New practices CSIR Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, DEA Department of Environmental Affairs (previously DEAT Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism), DWS Department of Water and Sanitation (previously DWAF Department of Water Affairs and Tourism), NMMU Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, SANBI South African National Biodiversity Institute, SAIAB South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, SANParks South African National Parks, WRC Water Research Commission, WWF Worldwide Fund for Nature Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 715 123 Results and discussion Who to learn with? Deciding which actors are eligible and essential for participation in a particular transdisciplinary learning process (as well as involving them in such a process) can be daunting. Important considerations include breadth of invitation, timing, extent and duration of involvement, techniques used to involve the different actors, and equitability, including a consideration of the imperative to empower marginal groups (Armitage et al. 2008; Kru¨tli et al. 2010; Mobjo¨rk 2010). Here, we focus on two actorselection heuristics to facilitate long-term and systemic learning and avoid selection bias. Actors from across the transdisciplinary knowledge network Jantsch (1972) classified university knowledge into a fourlevel hierarchy. Max-Neef (2005) depicted these levels as a transdisciplinary hierarchy of knowledge (Fig. 2a). Empirical disciplines at the base of the pyramid describe knowledge that exists, disciplines at the pragmatic level describe what can be done, disciplines at the normative level describe what is desired and disciplines at the purposive level reflects socially embedded values that define what should be done (see Fig. 2a). We used these levels, and also mobilised non-academic knowledge, to identify relevant actors for the NFEPA (Fig. 2b) and Wilderness (Fig. 2c) projects, respectively. Transdisciplinary learning would then strive to connect individuals vertically and horizontally across these levels and disciplines into a learning network (Reyers et al. 2010). Funke and Nienaber (2012) state that the NFEPA project represented a significant departure from ‘‘business as usual’’ research because the project team ‘‘consistently grappled with issues of transdisciplinarity’’. These authors highlight the diversity of experts who were involved in producing the research as well as the manner in which perceived research end-users participated throughout the research process—from problem framing to completion. Co-learners included actors that had (a) empirical-level expertise in political science, social ecology, aquatic ecology, conservation biology, ichthyology, environmental chemistry and geographic information systems (from research organisations as well as embedded in national and provincial government agencies and departments); (b) pragmatic-level expertise in environmental management, systematic conservation planning and water resource management (national and provincial government departments as well as consultants); and (c) normative-level expertise in planning and policy across environment and water sectors (national and provincial government departments) (Fig. 2b). At the purposive level, the values underpinning the study were rooted in cross-sector policy objectives (Roux et al. 2006) which, in turn, were strongly influenced by legislation from particularly the water and biodiversity sectors. Importantly, the participatory process used to derive cross-sector policy objectives for freshwater conservation (Roux et al. 2008) helped to build inter-organisational relationships even before the inception of the NFEPA project (Audouin et al. 2013). Indeed, many of these organisations became funders and co-designers of the NFEPA project (Nel et al. 2016). This multiple institutional ownership of the NFEPA project undoubtedly served as a catalyst for the widespread dissemination and uptake of the project outputs. In the Wilderness project, members of the project team represent various empirical-level disciplines from across the natural and social sciences, including conservation biology, systems ecology, aquatic ecology, communication and social–ecological resilience (Fig. 2c). At the pragmatic level, the team engaged agriculture (mainly dairy farmers) and civil society (e.g. Seven Passes Initiative, Touw River Conservancy, Wilderness Ratepayers and Residents Association). At the normative level, co-learning occurred with decision-makers from government entities (SANParks and Eden District Municipality) as well as the project steering committee. The purposive level included the Water Research Commission (directing the scope of research) as well as sustainability principles from national policy documents and scientific literature (O’Farrell et al. 2015). Max-Neef’s hierarchy of knowledge (Fig. 2a) was a useful guide for mapping out the expertise and functions required to achieve the aims of each case study. It helped to consider the systematic representation across the transdisciplinary hierarchy, both vertically and horizontally (see Fig. 2b, c). However, we found it more useful to view the two-dimensional hierarchy as a knowledge network that is inextricably linked to (and dynamically shaped by) the development of relationships among diverse actors. In instances where actor linkages are not well developed or understood, an explicit focus on ‘‘network weaving’’ may be helpful. This involves social network mapping and analysis to help strategically identify non-communicating stakeholders with whom mutually beneficial links could be established (Vance-Borland and Holley 2011). Ultimately, the two-dimensional hierarchy depicted in Fig. 2a will only deliver on transdisciplinary learning and systemic change if populated by actors with appropriate agency, i.e. those who have the capacity to participate in the learning process, relay messages over space and time and act on new knowledge within their mandates. Establishing linkages takes time and is often mediated by 716 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 123 serendipity. For example, in the Wilderness project a discussion with an official at a school sport event helped to overcome an impasse in setting up a formal meeting. The reality is that in an emerging democracy such as South Africa, stakeholder capacities are uneven, which is one of the root causes of inequity. To promote more equitable participation remains a challenge, which we strived to overcome through a number of strategies. These included to (a) comprehensively analyse social networks in advance, especially in the Wilderness project (Roos 2015), (b) use community workers and community-based organisations as intermediaries to link the research team with historically neglected stakeholders, (c) advertise knowledge-sharing events in unusual places such as the local post office and schools, (d) use accessible bridging objects such as simple maps and participatory mapping exercises (see section on boundary objects below) to level the playing field and (e) organise knowledge-sharing events at or close to participants’ places of work and residence (see section on third places), to enter their comfort zones instead of inviting them into ours. Experts, novices and bridging agents A balance of seasoned professionals and novices can facilitate mentoring, succession and a constructive and complementary tension between more established and more open mindsets (Bransford et al. 2003). Following Bransford et al. (2003), we use ‘‘experts’’ to refer to experienced professionals who have acquired extensive knowledge that enhances their ability to interpret information, reason and solve problems. The competence credibility of these individuals lends trustworthiness to the projects in which they are involved, and in most cases, they Fig. 2 Hierarchies of knowledge based on the literature (a) and applied for the two case studies (b, c). A hierarchy of knowledge based on Jantsch (1972), Max-Neef (2005) and Reyers et al. (2010) (a) was used to map relevant transdisciplinary actors for the NFEPA (b) and Wilderness (c) projects, respectively. In b and c, the grey shading indicates the knowledge domain of the project team members, some of whom also acted as bridging agents. Boxes with solid outlines indicate actor groups that were successfully engaged and boxes with dotted outlines indicate actor groups that were deemed important to the respective studies but who were not successfully engaged within the duration of these projects. Connecting lines are used to indicate the actors between whom mutual learning occurred Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 717 123 are sought-after mentors or supervisors for less experienced workers. Novices on the other hand are eager to learn new things and do not have the restrictions of overly conditioned ‘‘habits of understanding’’ (sensu Ison (2010)), deeply entrenched beliefs or overburdened work schedules. They might be in a position to ‘‘see’’ new opportunities or solutions and to adopt ‘‘new ways of doing’’ in the workplace. At least some of the experts and novices should also be bridging agents, in this context referring to people skilled at connecting key individuals from different knowledge domains across the transdisciplinary knowledge network (Fig. 2). The NFEPA project team included experts, novices and bridging agents, spanning key national government departments, agencies and research facilities. However, relatively few experts and bridging agents came from provincial government departments. While the NFEPA project gave considerable attention to developing end-user readiness for its products (e.g. through facilitating participatory case studies within selected provinces), none of the nine provinces in South Africa had the full suite of aquatic and conservation expertise (Driver et al. 2011) to enable them to effectively discharge their mandates regarding freshwater conservation and management. Those provinces with relevant capacity (see Impson 2016) were markedly more active in the NFEPA engagement processes, which generally translated into stronger adoption of project outputs. Some provinces lacked the basic freshwater and conservation expertise required to effectively ‘‘absorb’’ the new information (Impson 2016). While we would suggest that transdisciplinary learning provides a platform for increasing the ‘‘absorptive capacity’’ (see Murray et al. 2011) of participants, there seems to be a minimum threshold of prior knowledge that enables participation in the first place and over which the transdisciplinary project has limited control. In the Wilderness project, the research team consisted of a number of established scientists (experts) as well as MSc/ MA/MTech- and PhD-level students (novices). Some of the team members were also natural bridging agents, and the project drew extensively on existing relationships between researchers and actors from across the transdisciplinary knowledge network (Fig. 2c). However, the same presence of experts and novices was not achieved within all stakeholder groups. For example, the dairy farmers and officials from the District Municipality appeared to be mostly established career experts, while the lack of novices in these groups might challenge their future institutional memory regarding lessons learned from this project. The Seven Passes Initiative, on the other hand, was represented mostly by young people from the Touwsranten community, and we had to actively recruit senior community members with historical knowledge. Engagement dynamics were further enhanced by natural networkers or ‘‘connectors’’ (sensu Gladwell 2000) both in the farming community and civic society groups. However, the project team was unable to find and engage such individuals within government, which no doubt hampered uptake of the project outcomes in these agencies. So while one may have an idea of who to learn with, finding these people can prove impossibly difficult and potentially impact the outcomes of transdisciplinary research. What to learn about? Individual learning proficiency is highest when learning about things that the individual already knows a lot about (Bransford et al. 2003). Furthermore, it is convenient to learn about these things with and from others who share the same language, belief, education and socio-economic status, because such similarities support effective communication (Rogers 1995). These two learning principles help to reinforce disciplinary focus and knowledge fragmentation in science. An important point of departure in transdisciplinary learning is to learn about things that will help to overcome perceived differentness (among the spectrum of actors/colearners that have been identified in the previous section) and work towards shared interest. Below we present two such learning themes. Each other’s histories, values and existing knowledge People’s perceptions of and responses to social–ecological change are likely to be context specific and grounded in place-based histories, social networks, cultural norms and institutional structures, and involve a variety of actors at all levels of society (Paschen and Ison 2014). To foster a better appreciation of the diverse perspectives that exist across a transdisciplinary knowledge network, actors should also learn about the perspectives of fellow actors in their social– ecological system. A starting point is to learn about each other’s histories, existing knowledge and realities. In the NFEPA project, actors from across the transdisciplinary network mostly had similar levels of education (tertiary) but displayed differences in work cultures (e.g. science, management, policy functions). From project inception, an effort was made to understand relevant policy contexts and to be reflective of the key policy issues (e.g. that NFEPA products should align with existing legislation and avoid spatial congruence with areas prioritised for economic development). Similarly, the project enabled interaction with conservation practitioners and the team endeavoured to understand their implementation realities, e.g. regarding resource limitations. The sociopolitical 718 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 123 history of South Africa featured in many discussions and the need to balance conservation aspirations with socioeconomic priorities was acknowledged. The Wilderness project was characterised by substantial dissimilarity among actors in terms of both education and work cultures. Dairy farmers, scientists, local government officials, residents of low-cost settlements and subsistence fishers are not naturally ‘‘members of the same flock’’. In this project, the research team made a dedicated effort to listen first (especially during the first year of the project) and to offer their perspectives only when asked. Initially, the dairy farmers did not see enough relevance in the project to commit their time. Through attending some of their meetings as observers (e.g. around a farmer’s kitchen table over coffee), the interest and commitment of the farmers grew to the point of becoming a key participant group by the end of the project. The fact that staff and students from the local university were part of the project team contributed to trust building. Some of the MSc/MA/MTech students integrated narrative enquiry in their research approach (e.g. Roos 2015; Buckle 2016; Mc Culloch 2016). These student researchers and other actors became co-learners, as opposed to investigators and subjects, participating in a mutual process of reflection and sense making. One MSc thesis focussed on synthesising historical events that played a significant role in shaping the social–ecological system of the Wilderness Basin (Roos 2015). Various stakeholders were surprised to learn how these events affected fellow stakeholders, and that they were all linked to some degree as inhabitants of the same basin. A general characteristic of both case studies was that scientists respectfully and empathetically listened to their transdisciplinary learning partners. Such listening helped to remove social distance and build trust among participants. Learning about each other also provided a deep understanding of the receiving environment for the project outputs. This helped to translate the new transdisciplinary insights into relevant and useful products. However, some of the actor groups, including publicsector departments and agencies, were ill-prepared to collaborate and learn with other actors. Reasons may include (a) prejudices (not able to ‘‘hear’’ views contrary to established beliefs), (b) capacity limitations (more specifically depth and breadth of project-related knowledge) and (c) inability to navigate power inequalities among actors. In such situations, which are particularly prevalent in developing countries, mutual learning and knowledge coproduction processes are likely to be slower than what researchers or funders desire (Reyers et al. 2010). However, in our experience, learning about each other’s worlds and realities contributed significantly to relationship building and subsequent willingness to engage in mutual learning on the theme of the particular project. Concepts that promote mutual understanding, and an aspirational common future Concepts represent generalisations or abstractions of how things work. In transdisciplinary research, shared concepts can help to steer mutual learning and foster common understanding. Acknowledging that people construct new understanding based on what they already know and believe (Bransford et al. 2003), the same concept may lead to different interpretations by different transdisciplinary actors. This diversity of perspectives contributes to a rich knowledge base from which a desired common future can be jointly articulated. In the NFEPA project, scientists summarised consensus, uncertainties and disagreements from the literature on systematic conservation planning and freshwater ecology. These were presented to policy officials and resource managers in a form that was relevant to their respective policy contexts and work mandates (see Roux et al. 2008). Through the resulting science–policy–management dialogue, concepts such as conservation targets, biodiversity representation, planning for efficiency and free-flowing rivers became part of the NFEPA narrative. These concepts facilitated sense making and exploration of mutual understanding. New terms such as ‘‘Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas (FEPAs’’) and ‘‘implementation-driven planning’’ emerged from the transdisciplinary learning process and helped to establish a sense of broad ownership through shared vocabulary. The project was directed by a national goal, namely ‘‘to conserve a sample of the full variety or diversity of inland water ecosystems that occur in South Africa… for present and future generations’’. This goal was itself the outcome of deliberations with policy officials across various sectors. It was widely ‘‘owned’’ and collectively disaggregated into five subordinate policy objectives and several implementation principles and recommendations (Roux et al. 2006), including a quantitative target of conserving 20% of all freshwater ecosystem types. The latter became influential and served as an aspirational vision for guiding the spatial delineation of FEPAs. The Wilderness project team used various engagements (e.g. sustainability dialogues) as opportunities to introduce selected concepts to stakeholders. These concepts included ecological infrastructure, ecosystem services, Anthropocene, co-management, stewardship and water quality. Learning about ecological infrastructure and ecosystem services helped a local government department to reconceptualise the links between their environmental management mandate and societal benefits. Dairy farmers could relate to the risk that toxic cyanobacteria pose to their cows Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 719 123 and hence the dangers associated with nutrient enrichment of farm dams. It was also rewarding to learn that, following one of the dialogues, a farmer had sourced further reading on the tragedy of the commons and that the concept has helped him to better understand social–ecological challenges in the area. During the third year of the project, actors from the Wilderness project identified the need for a common vision, articulating it as: ‘‘A healthy river system and healthy community through collective effort, beyond our own back yards’’ (O’Farrell et al. 2015). In both case studies, we found that most of the identified actors were open to (and interested in) learning about new concepts from science, especially those concepts that were also of direct relevance to their worlds. We found the skilful introduction of shared [scientific] concepts of interest to be an important catalyst for transdisciplinary learning. How to learn [together]? ‘‘How to learn’’ relates to designing interventions to ensure true co-learning and empowering actors to participate equally in the knowledge production process (Mobjo¨rk 2010). We found that knowledge co-production was a useful yardstick to aim for, defined by Armitage et al. (2011) as ‘‘the collaborative process of bringing a plurality of knowledge sources and types together to address a defined problem and build an integrated or systems-oriented understanding of that problem’’. Below we present two ways for facilitating learning that promoted knowledge co-production in our case studies, namely the use of boundary objects and third places. Embrace boundary objects Several academic communities recognise the importance of boundary objects but view and use the concept differently (Star and Griesemer 1989). Examples of boundary objects include models (White et al. 2010), indicators (Turnhout et al. 2007) and maps (Nel et al. 2016). Co-production of these objects can establish shared interest and at least overlapping understanding across multiple knowledge domains. Star and Griesemer (1989; page 393) suggest that boundary objects are useful ‘‘in developing and maintaining coherence across intersecting social worlds’’. In the NFEPA project, a national and several sub-national maps of FEPAs served as tangible tools and shared boundary objects to promote multi-agency cooperation in conserving freshwater biodiversity. These maps were collectively envisioned during the project’s initiation phase and were co-produced by diverse stakeholders through a series of interactive workshops. During these workshops, more than 450 individuals representing [1000 years of collective experience contributed knowledge to help design, revise and improve the maps (Fig. 3a, b) (Nel et al. 2016). This resulted in the broad ownership and utility of the FEPAs, which have found application in both national policy and decision-making processes, as well as local management in the water and biodiversity sectors (Nel et al. 2016). Examples of uptake include a national water resource strategy (DWS 2013), a national biodiversity assessment (Driver et al. 2012), water catchment management strategy and plans (Inkomati 2013) and a management plan for a national park (Roux et al. 2016). In the Wilderness project, maps depicting built and ecological infrastructure were used as boundary objects. Stakeholders were asked to partake in participatory mapping exercises (similar to focus group meetings, see Chambers 2006), typically with 4–5 individuals from a single actor group at one time. A list of prompts was used to guide the conversation and participants indicated their ‘‘answers’’ on the printed map using various colour pens to differentiate between ecological infrastructure, built infrastructure, and threats to those infrastructures, among other issues. Create ‘‘third places’’ A certain public space (also referred to as the agora) is required for scientists and practitioners to meet, share experiences and learn together (Nowotny et al. 2001; Pohl et al. 2010; Polk 2014). For both projects, we were inspired by a related concept that is relatively new to the transdisciplinary literature, namely Ray Oldenburg’s ‘‘third place’’. A third place refers to a social environment, other than home or the workplace, that provides a neutral ground for engagement, conversation and community building, and for establishing feelings of a sense of place (Oldenburg 1989). In a transdisciplinary sense, a third place represents a learning space at the interface between academia and practice, where academics and non-academics can have an equal voice when they engage to find common ground regarding particular social–ecological issues. In creating third places, there are some physical considerations. For example, using accessible yet attractive locations, and seating arrangements that encourages interaction. There are also non-physical design features such as creating a space where disciplinary boundaries become less clear and less intrinsically acceptable (e.g. through the careful use of language). Conversation or dialogue is the main activity taking place at third places. During the dialogue, it is likely, and perhaps desirable, that a third position will emerge, which is not an academic, traditional, management or policy position, but rather acknowledges and reflects the values and beliefs of all the relevant actors. It might not be 720 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 123 possible for any one actor group to imagine this third position without the rich interaction of all the positions during iterative issue framing, knowledge production and knowledge application. We propose that transdisciplinary work does not start once the third position emerges. Rather, the third position is a product of transdisciplinary engagement. The interactive workshops that characterised the NFEPA project were commonly held at a meeting facility in a botanical garden. The relatively neutral setting contributed to free and equal communication among policy officials, conservation practitioners, scientists and resource planners. These workshops were characterised by participants being fully engaged around a table covered with maps rather than sitting in a hall listening to presentations (Fig. 3a). The most notable third places that were created during the Wilderness project were in the form of ‘‘sustainability dialogues’’ following the World Cafe´ method (Oelofse and Cady 2012). This method facilitates group learning through multiple mini-dialogues that encourage participant interaction around questions formulated in a way to stimulate reflection and access the collective intelligence of the group as a source for innovative thinking (Brown and Isaacs 2008). Dialogues were held on the local university campus and in the hall of a local primary school (Fig. 3d). Care was taken to create a welcoming and open ambiance and to facilitate inclusive participation. For example, seating arrangements and refreshments mimicked a coffee shop rather than a lecture hall. Technical information was translated and shared in common English and Afrikaans (the local vernacular), often using metaphors, such as comparing a catchment to the human body when explaining its complex connections. Convenience, accessibility and neutrality were important considerations in selecting the venues and timing for dialogues. For example, several dairy farmers attended the dialogue in the school hall after dropping their children for school. The children helped arrange tables and chairs before school and farmers felt comfortable to attend with their work clothes. From the feedback of participants, these events were learning highlights. Fig. 3 Use of boundary objects and a third places in the two projects. Maps used as boundary objects in the NFEPA project served to facilitate stakeholder engagement (a) and evolved into spatially explicit conservation plans (b). In the Wilderness project, various actor groups could relate to ecological as well as built infrastructures on maps of their local areas (c), and the village school hall was a good third place for dialogues (d) Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 721 123 Lessons for transdisciplinary researchers In both our case studies, explicit efforts were made to involve actors from across the transdisciplinary knowledge network (Fig. 2). Retrospectively, we emphasise the value of a representative spread of experts and novices throughout the network including some skilful bridging agents. This was fulfilled by the respective project teams, who instilled an ethos of listening to (and learning about) transdisciplinary learning partners, to the point where there was sufficient social cohesion among actors to jointly formulate a common vision. Complementary learning about concepts of shared interest (e.g. conservation planning and stewardship of ecological infrastructure) helped to inform the vision. Boundary objects and third places were helpful mechanisms for facilitating transdisciplinary learning. Yet, when assessed against the systemic change achieved, the outcomes of the two case studies were different. The NFEPA project demonstrates how transdisciplinary learning and the associated emergence of coproduced and practice-based knowledge can fundamentally shift an institutional group story (in this case related to the conservation of freshwater ecosystems), with the NFEPA concepts and vocabulary now seemingly well entrenched in relevant policy, management plans and environmental practices (Nel et al. 2016). In the Wilderness project, enthusiastic participation and signs of an evolving group story did not translate into a systemic shift in institutional arrangements. The project team was not successful in securing a follow-on project, and the gains made during the Wilderness project seem vulnerable to regression. While we acknowledge that findings from case studies in social–ecological systems cannot be easily generalised due to the uniqueness of the setting, some insights from our case study experiences could act as lessons to other transdisciplinary researchers. Through applying the learning framework to our case studies, and reflecting on their different outcomes, we have distilled five generic lessons for transdisciplinary researchers. First, the duration, timing and continuation potential of a project influences its prospects for achieving systemic and sustainable change through transdisciplinary learning. At least six years of co-learning in the relevant science, policy and practice domains preceded the NFEPA project. A further five years of knowledge co-production served to consolidate and entrench the new knowledge. On the other hand, the Wilderness project was a newly initiated project. Although it served to establish conditions suitable to foster transdisciplinary learning, three years were insufficient to anchor the new knowledge systemically in this social– ecological system. This highlights a challenge for individual research projects and postgraduate studies that are framed as transdisciplinary research. Conventional funding arrangements and postgraduate studies offer limited opportunities for problem co-framing and knowledge coproduction with transdisciplinary actors (Esler et al. 2016), and limited scope for mid-course adaptations based on context-specific factors. It might be more realistic to conceive transdisciplinary research as a programme consisting of a number of complementary research projects that converge towards a common, but dynamic, goal (Roux et al. 2010). Second, bridging agents play a critical role in the social facilitation required for transdisciplinary learning. They migrate horizontally and vertically across the transdisciplinary knowledge network to connect different functions and domains, act as conduits for knowledge flows and reduce knowledge fragmentation. Our findings also indicate that the role of bridging agent should be embedded within an institution that has a primary interest in implementing the envisaged change. While excellent bridging agents may exist in academic institutions (e.g. universities, science councils), these institutions are not ideally placed for the long-term role of a bridging agent. During the NFEPA project, staff from the national biodiversity institute (SANBI) played a strong bridging role between national and provincial spheres of government, water and biodiversity policy sectors, and science and policy functions. SANBI could maintain its own NFEPA drive after the project concluded. At the same time, it is an influential policy institute that has been instrumental in entrenching NFEPA principles in various national policy developments. In the Wilderness project, the staff and students of the local university were successful bridging agents in that they were perceived as neutral and with a genuine interest in local issues. While they manage to facilitate dialogue among transdisciplinary actors, a lack of an institutionalised bridging agent hindered post-project sustainability. Some of the actors are now asking when the next meeting will take place, and without a related project this leaves the university bridging agent in a somewhat embarrassing position. Third, transdisciplinary learning holds the potential to put researchers, decision-makers and other knowledge users on equal footing. It challenges the notion of a researcher as the ‘‘expert’’ who ‘‘produces’’ knowledge that is ‘‘transferred’’ to users (Rogers 2006). Transdisciplinary researcher will need to expand their scope from being skilled at mastering a knowledge domain to also being skilled at participating in open learning systems and from participating in knowledge co-production to also being involved with its translation to action (Cornell et al. 2013). Fourth, transdisciplinary learning that is underpinned by mixed-paradigm research could help mend knowledge fragmentation within science. Our main focus in this paper 722 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 123 was on learning across science–stakeholder knowledge domains. However, learning across academia’s natural and social science cultures is also relevant. In the Wilderness project, postgraduate theses used narrative, empirical and action research designs (Buckle 2016; Crisp 2015; Mc Culloch 2016; Roos 2015). Complementarity, and indeed synergy, of results was facilitated by an overall project aim and regular dialogues. Students (and supervisors) from across social and biophysical subject areas interacted with remarkable ease and were generally appreciative of the broad exposure. We believe that a transdisciplinary approach with purposeful mixed-paradigm design could contribute to opening up new synergies between traditional divides of qualitative and quantitative research as well as inductive and deductive reasoning in science. Fifth, transdisciplinary researchers must constantly guard against three wicked pitfalls in mutual learning initiatives. The first is biases in participant self-selection as educated and wealthy participants have easier access to information, respond and interact faster, and nominate themselves more readily than those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The second is the perceived superiority of scientific knowledge and empirical (‘‘hard’’) data that is common among many types of stakeholders. Participants with experiential and informal knowledge struggle to legitimise their ‘‘data’’ and may withhold such information for fear of being ridiculed or looked down upon. The third is the ‘‘fatal attraction’’ of simple solutions to wicked problems. Participants who confidently propose (or impose) simple solutions gain traction and appeal. However, such solutions may often favour the status quo instead of innovation. We believe that our approach to mutual learning, while not being a silver bullet to the wicked problem of collaborative ecosystem management, can help guard against such pitfalls. Conclusions The global science community is more connected and learning faster than ever before. Governments and society in general are overwhelmed with rapid changes and frequent surprises and increasingly operate in a reactive mode. It is inherently challenging to maintain two-way knowledge flows between these two domains. Transdisciplinary research is an approach tailored to address this challenge. Although transdisciplinary research has a relatively long history of academic discourse, agreement on standards for its practice is still lacking. The development of such standards will depend on publishing insights that emerge from across diverse transdisciplinary research settings. Attention should also be given to the social processes (such as mutual learning) that form an inevitable part of transdisciplinary research. However, social processes introduce.
 
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This is the simple guide to learning how to learn:

Have you ever wanted to learn, but you aren't good at learning and you get discouraged. well let me take you on a story and I hope you learn some things about learning how to learn. Firstly, How to Learn Together, Apart Ewan Jones 12 June 2020 If, in years to come, an intrepid researcher writes a dissertation upon the history of technology-assisted synchronous learning, her or his first chapter may well find room for 7 January 1977. It was on this day that the Collège de France attempted what it didn’t yet call a simulcast of Roland Barthes’s inaugural lecture, Barthes having recently been elected to the chair of Sémiologie Littéraire.1 The Collège live broadcasted the proceedings to the overspill of students unable to access the main lecture hall. Barthes’s performance uncannily anticipates the present order to which, with drastic quickness, we’ve become accustomed. Claude Coste notes that “the first session in particular suffered a number of interruptions: the retransmission not working, the irritated amusement of the students, having to send out for a technician, Barthes’s own embarrassment at the many technical failings.”2 This anecdote reassures me whenever I loiter in the limbo of a Zoom waiting room. In addition to its means of delivery, the substance of Barthes’s lectures has much to say to our present selves. View attachment 1604471

The first course of public talks and seminars that he delivered from January–May 1977, under the nearly impossibly large title Comment vivre ensemble, parallels and prefigures our contemporary world so uncannily that at times I wonder whether it’s a trick of the lockdown-induced paranoid mind. Barthes surveys a wide variety of isolated, ascetic, or otherwise self-distancing communities: the quotidian Critical Inquiry 47 (Winter 2021) © 2021 by The University of Chicago. 00093-1896/21/47S2-0020$10.00. All rights reserved. 1. See Roland Barthes, “Lecon Inaugurale au Collège de France,” 7 Jan. 1977, ubusound .memoryoftheworld.org/barthes_roland/Barthes-Roland_Lecon-inaugurale-au-College-de-France -7-Janvier-1977.mp3 2. Barthes, How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of Some Everyday Spaces, trans. Kate Briggs (New York, 2013), p. xviii; hereafter abbreviated H. rituals of monastic life in Mount Athos; the sanatorium in which Hans Castorp intended only to spend a few days; the small room in which Blanche Monnier was sequestered for twenty-five years by parents disappointed by her refusal of an eligible marriage, and who later inspired André Gide’s “Confined Woman of Poitiers.” “What distance must I maintain between myself and others if we are to construct together a sociability without alienation, a solitude without exile?” (H, p. xxv). Barthes was, as with much besides, the inadvertent prophet of COVID-19. The laundry van that hit Barthes requires us to start thinking where his unfinished lectures left off.
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I’ve been using the hyphenated thoughts and trailing ellipses of Comment vivre ensemble as essential tools to help me make sense of and stay sane through the current times in which we live. Barely a half day goes by without my being reminded of a concept that Barthes borrows from Jacques Lacarrière’s L’éte grec: idiorrhythmy—a constraining social space that nevertheless does not preclude individual freedom. Quotidian lockdown life is itself an idiorrhythmic case study. A conversation just the other day with a colleague, returned to care for her frail and elderly mother, Zooming her students as the distinguished academic that she is, from a childhood bedroom that reminds her of the child that she also still is. (She was shaken from her scholarly reflections when, through the window, she saw her mother, hanging laundry, fall.) My students, attempting as best they can to curate bare bookshelves in houses where reading was not encouraged. My own experience, stranded in an unfamiliar city, ordering cheap and pathetically small prints of artworks by Amy Sillman and Georges-Pierre Seurat, which I pin to the white walls of my unfamiliar apartment, just as when young I used to glue culture cut from newspapers (I was terrified that I would lose it). Art for art’s sake, revealed for what it always was: a means of getting through the day. The pandemic has enabled an efflorescence of thoughts on the modalities of isolated thinking and feeling—to which the Critical Inquiry blog has provided signal contributions.3 As a means of opening up a dialogue with work that has sustained me, I want for the remainder of this disquisitioncum-diary-entry to pick up and carry further Irina Dumitrescu and Caleb Ewan Jones is a lecturer in English at Cambridge and a fellow of Downing College. He has just finished a second book on the history of the concept of rhythm in the nineteenth century and is working on a series of oblique pedagogical strategies that seek to extend and to deform historical practices of close (or slow) reading, looking, and listening. 3. See “Posts from the Pandemic,” In the Moment, critinq.wordpress.com/2020/04/28/posts -from-the-pandemic/ S124 Ewan Jones / How to Learn Together, Apart Smith’s discussion of lockdown distraction, which itself shares much in common with Barthes’s considerations of monastic cohabitation.4 What follows are flash reflections (half-cooled hot takes) on what the continuing pandemic might entail both for critical theory and applied pedagogy. I list these two aspects of life and thought as if they were separate, when what I really want is to heal their rift. First, critical theory. COVID-19 doesn’t only append a further compelling case study to the several recent scholarly treatments of attention; it radically alters the position from which any theorist of distraction speaks. Much of the most distinguished work in this field has considered cultures of attentiveness (or inattentiveness) from a broadly Foucauldian or immanently critical perspective.5 Yet such work often betrays a revealing tension, between a onesize-fits-all process of subjectivation through which societies trammel or compel or mutilate attention and the curious freedom of the critical theorist to (undistractedly) read artworks or conduct often brilliantly erudite ideology critique. The present pandemic disallows us that privileged freedom: if nothing else, COVID-19 might help us to acknowledge the cognitive distractions and corporeal fatigue that always operate but which are now raised to a new and possibly useful level. In so doing, we might undo the distance between subjects and objects of knowledge; we might view the many previous cultures of distraction (ranging from the religious communities that mortified the senses, to the manual workers who labor automatically or involuntarily, to the nineteenth-century psychophysiologists who willfully overextend cognitive reach) not merely as pathologies or casualties of society but also as prospective resources. Immanent critique might then finally assume the concrete form to which it more often than not only pays lip service. Such questions are to my mind inseparable from our teaching practice. In his Literary Criticism: A Concise Political History, Joseph North proposes “radical pedagogy” as one means by which the humanities might heal its diremption from social praxis.6 I could not agree more vehemently, while at the same time wishing for a clearer sense of what such practice might entail, beyond a charismatic reading that compels assent.
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I teach English at Downing College, where decades ago F. R. Leavis famously held court; returning alumnae often tell me how much his forcefulness depended upon the small-group 4. See Irina Dumitrescu and Caleb Smith, “The Demon of Distraction,” in “Posts from the Pandemic,” an online supplement to Critical Inquiry 47 (Winter 2021): S77–81. 5. A representative instance is Jonathan Crary’s Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture (Cambridge, Mass., 1999). 6. Joseph North, Literary Criticism: A Concise Political History (Cambridge, Mass., 2017), p. 107. Critical Inquiry / Winter 2021 S125 supervision. We cannot now gather in such small rooms for the foreseeable future (on the morning that I write this, my university has just announced that all lectures for the 2020/21 academic year will be conducted online). Yet this sad eventuality might enable forms of pedagogy less dependent upon charisma: “perhaps the ideal lecture course would be one,” Barthes selfdeflatingly declared, “where the professor—the locutor—is less interesting than his audience” (H, pp. 133, 134.). And yet even Barthes struggled in this respect. He had intended the thirteenth and concluding lecture of Comment vivre ensembleto take up the varying responses of his audience and by so doing produce a practical instance of “Living Together.” As things transpired, however, the session did not take place, with Barthes retreating (with uncharacteristic bashfulness) behind the dialogical yet defiantly written form of A Lover’s Discourse (1977), on which he was concurrently engaged (see H, pp. 130–31.). But I believe that spatial constraints and technological innovations, which COVID-19 has thrust upon us, can inspire us to recover Barthes’s cancelled utopia of pedagogical idiorrhythmy. Not, perhaps, by adopting the forms of instantaneous feedback that increasingly characterize digital life: I am not calling for students to annotate lectures as they can new music tracks via SoundCloud, or to “react,” live on YouTube, to literature or to taught content. (Though why not? Such experiments might prove valuable, particularly if they reconnect students to the immediacy and gesturality of aesthetic response.) Rather, I’ve been developing over the past weeks a range of technologically mediated pedagogical exercises that intend both to extend and to reorient the forms of close and slow looking and listening that have historically characterized our critical practices. They include: asking undergraduate students to curate their own bedrooms, by cutting out images from newspapers or printing photographs from the internet so as to produce an exhibition in which they live; “paraphrasing” the television or Netflix series upon which for excellent reasons they need to binge into a prosodic form (ottava rima, Spenserian stanzas, and others) that they choose or that is chosen for them— or the relating of a given poem to the texture of objects in their immediate environment, so as to focus attention upon the tactile experience that has not only been overlooked by so much art criticism but also prohibited by the pandemic. Such exercises might provide means not only of reanimating our own pedagogical approaches but also of building tentative bridges to other forms of communal or institutional life with which higher education presently seems to hold little in common. I don’t know about you, but most days I spend some of the time feeling like the teacher of literature that I am, sometimes S126 Ewan Jones / How to Learn Together, Apart like a prisoner fortunate enough to have a stable internet connection, sometimes like an insatiably curious child, sometimes like a prematurely retired person trying to stave off early-onset cognitive degeneration. We all are all these things. COVID-19 is not a crisis that we can afford to waste.
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Transdisciplinary research for systemic change: who to learn with, what to learn about and how to learn Dirk J. Roux1,2 • Jeanne L. Nel2,3 • Georgina Cundill4,5 • Patrick O’Farrell3,6 • Christo Fabricius2 Received: 18 August 2016 / Accepted: 6 June 2017 / Published online: 16 June 2017 Springer Japan KK 2017 Abstract A key aim of transdisciplinary research is for actors from science, policy and practice to co-evolve their understanding of a social–ecological issue, reconcile their diverse perspectives and co-produce appropriate knowledge to serve a common purpose. With its concurrent grounding in practice and science, transdisciplinary research represents a significant departure from conventional research. We focus on mutual learning within transdisciplinary research and highlight three aspects that could guide other researchers in designing and facilitating such learning. These are: ‘‘who to learn with’’, ‘‘what to learn about’’ and ‘‘how to learn’’. For each of these questions, we present learning heuristics that are supported by a comparative analysis of two case studies that addressed contemporary conservation issues in South Africa but varied in scale and duration. These were a five-year national-scale project focusing on the prioritisation of freshwater ecosystems for conservation and a three-year local-scale project that used ecological infrastructure as a theme for advancing sustainability dialogues. Regarding the proposed learning heuristics, ‘‘who to learn with’’ is scale dependent and needs to be informed by relevant disciplines and policy sectors with the aim of establishing a knowledge network representing empirical, pragmatic, normative and purposive functions. This emergent network should be enriched by involving relevant experts, novices and bridging agents, where possible. It is important for such networks to learn about the respective histories, system processes and drivers, values and knowledge that exist in the social–ecological system of interest. Moreover, learning together about key concepts and issues can help to develop a shared vocabulary, which in turn can contribute to a shared understanding, a common vision and an agreed way of responding to it. New ways of group learning can be promoted and enhanced by co-developing outputs (boundary objects) for application across knowledge domains and creating spaces (third places) that facilitate exchange of knowledge and knowledge co-production. We conclude with five generic lessons for transdisciplinary researchers to enhance project success: (a) the duration, timing and continuation potential of a project influences its prospects for achieving systemic and sustainable change; (b) bridging agents, especially if embedded within an implementing agency, play a critical role in facilitating transdisciplinary learning with enhanced outcomes; (c) researchers need to participate as co-learners rather than masters of knowledge domains; (d) purposeful mixedparadigm research designs could help to mend knowledge fragmentation within science; and (e) researchers must be vigilant for three pitfalls in mutual learning initiatives, Handled by Alexandros Gasparatos, IR3S, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan. & Dirk J. Roux dirk.roux@sanparks.org 1 Scientific Services, South African National Parks, Private Bag X6531, George 6530, South Africa 2 Sustainability Research Unit, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Private Bag X6531, George 6530, South Africa 3 Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Natural Resources and the Environment, P.O. Box 320, Stellenbosch 7599, South Africa 4 Department of Environmental Science, Rhodes University, P.O. Box 94, Grahamstown 6130, South Africa 5 International Development Research Centre, P.O. Box 8500, Ottawa K1G 3H9, Canada 6 Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa 123 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 DOI 10.1007/s11625-017-0446-0 namely biases in participant self-selection, perceived superiority of scientific knowledge and the attraction of simple solutions to wicked problems that retain the status quo. Keywords Bridging agent Boundary objects Engaged science Learning heuristics Transdisciplinary learning framework Introduction Science and technological innovation were spectacularly successful drivers of social and economic development during most of the twentieth century. These drivers have helped humans to achieve their current position of dominance on Earth, to the extent that the actions of people have become a threat to the planet’s biophysical support base (Barnosky et al. 2012; Rockstro¨m et al. 2009). As a result, there is a call on science to respond to one of the most pressing issues of our time, namely to understand the interdependent relationship between human well-being and diverse, functioning ecological systems, and to guide humanity towards a more sustainable relationship with nature (Lubchenco 1998). Furthermore, relevant knowledge should be produced in ways that help overcome the divide between science and practice (Van Kerkhoff and Lebel 2006; Cornell et al. 2013; Clark et al. 2016) to create a complementary interplay between scientific knowledge production and institutional innovation (Woodhill 2010). The above challenge is at least in part being met by the emergence and increasing prominence of a number of research and management approaches focussed on addressing complex social–ecological issues. Management approaches include adaptive management and adaptive comanagement (Armitage et al. 2008), while research approaches include post-normal science (Funtowicz and Ravetz 1993), sustainability science (Clark and Dickson 2003) and transdisciplinary research (Hirsch Hadorn et al. 2008). These approaches are not necessarily mutually exclusive; for example, transdisciplinarity has been identified as a key aspect of sustainability science (Komiyama and Takeuchi 2006; Kates 2011). Here, we largely draw upon, and build on, the concept of transdisciplinary research. The aim of transdisciplinary research is for actors from academia, policy and/or practice domains to co-evolve their understanding of a social–ecological issue, reconcile their diverse perspectives and co-produce appropriate knowledge to serve a common purpose (Hirsch Hadorn et al. 2010; Lang et al. 2012; Young et al. 2014). Such an engaged research approach can expose participants to multiple perspectives regarding the pressing issues in social–ecological systems, creating an enriched picture of such issues and potentially uncovering complementarities across diverse knowledge systems (Polk 2014; Tengo¨ et al. 2014). A requirement of transdisciplinary research is to enable mutual learning processes among researchers representing different disciplines as well as actors from outside academia (Russell et al. 2008; Stauffacher et al. 2008; Mobjo¨rk 2010). However, learning across diverse knowledge systems is challenging and often characterised by misunderstanding, power plays, disagreement and tension (Cook et al. 2013). For knowledge to disperse, it is necessary to make knowledge domains (and their boundaries) more permeable, while maintaining the functional integrity of the contributing knowledge system. Such ‘‘boundary work’’ (Guston 2001; Mollinga 2010; Van Kerkhoff and Lebel 2006) is enabled by bridging agents. These individuals can ‘‘make it happen’’ and have been variously named boundary spanners, intermediaries and institutional entrepreneurs. They have been linked to a variety of skills and competencies such as developing social networks and building trust, legitimacy and social capital (Harris and Lyon 2013; Westley et al. 2013). Bridging agents are skilled at social facilitation and can create specialised interfaces between external knowledge sources, research teams and various participating actors. They can also translate knowledge and facilitate bidirectional transfers across relevant knowledge boundaries. Facilitating transdisciplinary research to improve society’s capacity to learn about (and respond to) a changing world sounds like a noble purpose. However, with its concurrent grounding in practice and science, transdisciplinary research represents a significant departure from conventional research. Academics and practitioners alike tend to believe in the superiority of their knowledge, especially when supported by hard data or personal experience (Berbe´s-Bla´zquez et al. 2016), creating a significant obstacle to mutual learning. It may not be intuitive for unversed researchers to prepare themselves to participate in, or facilitate, the mutual learning processes that are part of transdisciplinary research. Creating such transdisciplinary environments for effective learning can be important in order to address the significant sustainability challenges in African contexts, but the need for capacity and resources to achieve this must be recognised (Reyers et al. 2010). In this paper, we explore the role that researchers can play as bridging agents in designing and maintaining systemic learning processes (spanning relevant actors of a particular social–ecological system) as part of their transdisciplinary endeavours. We use a novel transdisciplinary learning framework that draws from two case studies in South Africa to reflect on three questions that we consider 712 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 123 foundational to learning in transdisciplinary research: ‘‘who to learn with’’, ‘‘what to learn about’’ and ‘‘how to learn’’. We conclude by presenting generic insights for consideration in the design of similar research initiatives in other parts of Africa and beyond. Methodology Research approach This paper draws on two transdisciplinary research projects that addressed contemporary conservation issues in South Africa. The two projects are used as case studies to extract important insights for learning in transdisciplinary settings. They were chosen based on the authors’ direct involvement with them (i.e. two authors were involved with both projects and three authors with one of the projects each), their marked variation in scale and duration, well-documented project specifications and achievements to draw on, and their respective transdisciplinary research designs (see below). As transdisciplinary researchers we co-learned with other actors and at the same time influenced the evolution of the ‘‘group story’’ (Hampton, 2004), and thus the ways of relating to and understanding the relevant social–ecological systems and issues (Paschen and Ison 2014) in the respective case studies. As bridging agents we were also compelled to learn about project design criteria that could influence learning proficiency and equitable participation. We asked three questions to reflect on our learning through these transdisciplinary experiences: who to learn with, what to learn about and how to learn? Based on our observations and experiences in the two projects, a number of answers (or rather learning heuristics) emerged for each of the questions. These heuristics were refined through ongoing reflections that happened informally and opportunistically during the course of (as well as subsequent to) the respective projects, spanning a period of 10 years. Early heuristics helped to inform the design of the second case study, and in this way, heuristics and design modifications emerged through iterative refinement. For this paper, we select two heuristics for each question based on their perceived robustness for each case study project, relative novel contributions to the transdisciplinary literature, and potential for generic application. The selected heuristics are not mutually exclusive (as can be expected from complex learning processes) nor are they intended to be all inclusive. Rather they serve as ‘‘rules of thumb’’ or a starting point to support transdisciplinary learning. The questions and selected heuristics are presented as a framework for transdisciplinary learning (Fig. 1). We then used the framework to inform a comparative analysis of the case studies. The resulting insights are grounded in theories and concepts from a broad spectrum of research fields, including stakeholder engagement, social learning and knowledge coproduction. Case studies National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Area (NFEPA) project Systematic conservation planning provides a widely accepted approach for identifying and prioritising ecosystems for protection (Kukkala and Moilanen 2013; Margules and Pressey 2000). The systematic approach to conservation planning focuses on conserving a representative suite of biodiversity, often driven by quantitative targets (Carwardine et al. 2009). Such targets can, for example, be to effectively conserve 17% of Earth’s terrestrial and inland water ecosystems by 2020, as specified by the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Targets (CBD 2011). While 30 years of refinement has made systematic conservation planning a sophisticated tool, effective implementation of the resulting conservation plans remains a challenge (Knight et al. 2008). Implementation of conservation plans could benefit from a number of institutional enablers, including political endorsement of conservation targets, a conducive policy environment and mandated agencies with awareness, sense of ownership and appropriate capacity to achieve conservation outcomes (Roux and Nel 2013). In addition to the technical approach of identifying priority areas for biodiversity conservation, an implementation orientation requires enhancing the ‘‘absorptive capacity’’ (i.e. ability to identify, assimilate, transform and apply valuable external information) of knowledge implementers (Cohen and Levinthal 1990). This was explicitly attempted during the design of a freshwater conservation plan for South Africa (Murray et al. 2011). The multi-year (2006–2011) NFEPA initiative had dual aims to: (1) identify spatial conservation priorities (referred to as Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas or FEPAs) in a scientifically credible manner and (2) develop an institutional basis for the effective conservation and management of these FEPAs (Roux and Nel 2013). Unlike earlier freshwater conservation plans for South Africa, the national-scale NFEPA initiative achieved significant traction with intended users (Roux and Nel 2013). In the relatively short time since their publication in 2011 (Driver et al. 2011; Nel et al. 2011a), the FEPA products have enjoyed remarkable uptake in policy and management tools for freshwater ecosystems (Nel et al. 2016). This has contributed to a systemic and notable change in the Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 713 123 discourse on the management and protection of freshwater ecosystems. The NFEPA initiative has played out, partly by design and partly by serendipity, as a transdisciplinary research process (Audouin et al. 2013; Cundill et al. 2015; Funke and Nienaber 2012; Nel et al. 2016). The project team consisted of members from various national agencies including end-users of the ultimate products (Table 1). Team members fulfilled the role of bridging agents and facilitated mutual learning across multiple institutional boundaries spanning national and provincial government as well as water, conservation and land-use planning sectors (Nel et al. 2016). Wilderness ecological infrastructure project Ecological infrastructure refers to functioning ecosystems that deliver valuable services to people. Examples of ecological infrastructure include strips of riparian vegetation that filter pollutants from water (Kemper 2001), wetlands that slow down flood waters (Kemper 2001), or coastal and estuarine ecosystems such as salt marshes and foredunes that can contribute to erosion control or absorb the impacts of sea storms (Barbier et al. 2011). When neglected or eroded by human activity, ecological infrastructure declines slowly and unnoticeably until a surprise event such as a flood, coastal surge, fire or drought occurs, which makes the decline instantaneously relevant, due to the associated debilitating economic, social and political impacts (Dobson et al. 2006; MA 2005). In South Africa, ecological infrastructure has been introduced into the development and policy domains as a term for engaging with infrastructure development, where it is framed as the nature-based equivalent of built infrastructure (Driver et al. 2012). Typically, the benefits/contributions of ecological infrastructure are not easy to quantify. Furthermore, they are not well studied and therefore somewhat obscure in the minds of decision-makers (Reyers et al. 2015). Yet, its relation to other forms of infrastructure (such as built infrastructure) may make the concept of ecological infrastructure sufficiently compatible with existing knowledge at local levels of governance to aid its adoption. The 3-year Wilderness project aimed to use ecological infrastructure as a theme for exploring how decisionmakers and landscape managers understood and responded to new scientific understanding, environmental change and sustainability challenges (Table 1). The project focussed on a small drainage basin along the south coast of South Africa (Wilderness River Basin), which contain wideranging land uses including a dairy farming community, Ramsar wetlands, a coastal village and parts of a national park (O’Farrell et al. 2015). Because the Wilderness project aimed to promote social–ecological transformation towards a more sustainable future in the Wilderness River Basin, it was designed with a transdisciplinary research process in mind. The project team consisted of researchers from a national research council and a university and relied heavily on the contributions of postgraduate students. Fig. 1 Summary of the transdisciplinary learning framework that emerged from the case studies and was used for their comparative analysis. The various learning heuristics can be used as principles to strive for in the design and execution of transdisciplinary research initiatives 714 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 123 Table 1 Characteristics of the two case studies NFEPA project Wilderness project Duration 5 years (2006–2011); relationships had already been built with several relevant agencies through basin-scale projects that preceded NFEPA 3 years (2012–2015) Scale National (South Africa) Local—relatively small drainage basin (Wilderness Lakes and Touw River) Funding mechanism Consortium of funders: WRC, CSIR, SANBI, WWF, DWS. SANParks, DEA and SAIAB contributed in kind (salaries). Project coordinated through WRC mechanisms and steered through both advisory and technical Reference Group meetings at major project milestones. WRC, based on annual call for funding of unsolicited research proposals. Steered through annual meetings of a Reference Group (constituted by the funder) against pre-defined and pre-scheduled deliverables (although the funder was open to negotiating mid-course adaptations) % of budget allocated for transdisciplinary engagement 60 47 Main actors involved Researchers (CSIR, SAIAB and universities) Water resource managers (national and provincial government departments) Conservation agencies (national and provincial) Environmental consultants Researchers (CSIR, NMMU) Commercial resource users (dairy farmers and foresters) Recreational users (conservancy) Subsistence users (local community) Civil society (ratepayers and residents association) Service delivery (municipality and conservation agency) Bridging agents Fairly senior project team with established networks and social capital in both the water and conservation communities, including members from national government departments and conservation agencies University staff on the project team including senior professor and students residing in the study area (i.e. ‘‘community-embedded’’ researchers) Forums for transdisciplinary engagement (mutual learning) Five sub-national workshops (3 days each) in regional city centres Three basin-level pilot studies (chosen on representation and user readiness) Biodiversity Planning Forum (conservation planning community of practice) Freshwater Ecosystem Network (community of practice to connect managers in the water and the environmental sector) One national workshop Training workshops in three regional centres Local community forums Focus group meetings Dialogues Local media Main products Atlas of FEPAs (Nel et al. 2011a) Implementation manual (Driver et al. 2011) Technical report describing science (Nel et al. 2011b) Data and information portal (http://bgis.sanbi.org/ Projects/Detail/48) Papers and presentations (e.g. Nel et al. 2016; Roux and Nel 2013) Project report (O’Farrell et al. 2015) Newspaper and popular science articles Student dissertations (Buckle 2016; Crisp 2015; Mc Culloch 2016; Roos 2015) Desired outcomes A new narrative in regulatory agencies Management impact Policy impact New knowledge network New narrative in the Wilderness community New practices CSIR Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, DEA Department of Environmental Affairs (previously DEAT Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism), DWS Department of Water and Sanitation (previously DWAF Department of Water Affairs and Tourism), NMMU Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, SANBI South African National Biodiversity Institute, SAIAB South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, SANParks South African National Parks, WRC Water Research Commission, WWF Worldwide Fund for Nature Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 715 123 Results and discussion Who to learn with? Deciding which actors are eligible and essential for participation in a particular transdisciplinary learning process (as well as involving them in such a process) can be daunting. Important considerations include breadth of invitation, timing, extent and duration of involvement, techniques used to involve the different actors, and equitability, including a consideration of the imperative to empower marginal groups (Armitage et al. 2008; Kru¨tli et al. 2010; Mobjo¨rk 2010). Here, we focus on two actorselection heuristics to facilitate long-term and systemic learning and avoid selection bias. Actors from across the transdisciplinary knowledge network Jantsch (1972) classified university knowledge into a fourlevel hierarchy. Max-Neef (2005) depicted these levels as a transdisciplinary hierarchy of knowledge (Fig. 2a). Empirical disciplines at the base of the pyramid describe knowledge that exists, disciplines at the pragmatic level describe what can be done, disciplines at the normative level describe what is desired and disciplines at the purposive level reflects socially embedded values that define what should be done (see Fig. 2a). We used these levels, and also mobilised non-academic knowledge, to identify relevant actors for the NFEPA (Fig. 2b) and Wilderness (Fig. 2c) projects, respectively. Transdisciplinary learning would then strive to connect individuals vertically and horizontally across these levels and disciplines into a learning network (Reyers et al. 2010). Funke and Nienaber (2012) state that the NFEPA project represented a significant departure from ‘‘business as usual’’ research because the project team ‘‘consistently grappled with issues of transdisciplinarity’’. These authors highlight the diversity of experts who were involved in producing the research as well as the manner in which perceived research end-users participated throughout the research process—from problem framing to completion. Co-learners included actors that had (a) empirical-level expertise in political science, social ecology, aquatic ecology, conservation biology, ichthyology, environmental chemistry and geographic information systems (from research organisations as well as embedded in national and provincial government agencies and departments); (b) pragmatic-level expertise in environmental management, systematic conservation planning and water resource management (national and provincial government departments as well as consultants); and (c) normative-level expertise in planning and policy across environment and water sectors (national and provincial government departments) (Fig. 2b). At the purposive level, the values underpinning the study were rooted in cross-sector policy objectives (Roux et al. 2006) which, in turn, were strongly influenced by legislation from particularly the water and biodiversity sectors. Importantly, the participatory process used to derive cross-sector policy objectives for freshwater conservation (Roux et al. 2008) helped to build inter-organisational relationships even before the inception of the NFEPA project (Audouin et al. 2013). Indeed, many of these organisations became funders and co-designers of the NFEPA project (Nel et al. 2016). This multiple institutional ownership of the NFEPA project undoubtedly served as a catalyst for the widespread dissemination and uptake of the project outputs. In the Wilderness project, members of the project team represent various empirical-level disciplines from across the natural and social sciences, including conservation biology, systems ecology, aquatic ecology, communication and social–ecological resilience (Fig. 2c). At the pragmatic level, the team engaged agriculture (mainly dairy farmers) and civil society (e.g. Seven Passes Initiative, Touw River Conservancy, Wilderness Ratepayers and Residents Association). At the normative level, co-learning occurred with decision-makers from government entities (SANParks and Eden District Municipality) as well as the project steering committee. The purposive level included the Water Research Commission (directing the scope of research) as well as sustainability principles from national policy documents and scientific literature (O’Farrell et al. 2015). Max-Neef’s hierarchy of knowledge (Fig. 2a) was a useful guide for mapping out the expertise and functions required to achieve the aims of each case study. It helped to consider the systematic representation across the transdisciplinary hierarchy, both vertically and horizontally (see Fig. 2b, c). However, we found it more useful to view the two-dimensional hierarchy as a knowledge network that is inextricably linked to (and dynamically shaped by) the development of relationships among diverse actors. In instances where actor linkages are not well developed or understood, an explicit focus on ‘‘network weaving’’ may be helpful. This involves social network mapping and analysis to help strategically identify non-communicating stakeholders with whom mutually beneficial links could be established (Vance-Borland and Holley 2011). Ultimately, the two-dimensional hierarchy depicted in Fig. 2a will only deliver on transdisciplinary learning and systemic change if populated by actors with appropriate agency, i.e. those who have the capacity to participate in the learning process, relay messages over space and time and act on new knowledge within their mandates. Establishing linkages takes time and is often mediated by 716 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 123 serendipity. For example, in the Wilderness project a discussion with an official at a school sport event helped to overcome an impasse in setting up a formal meeting. The reality is that in an emerging democracy such as South Africa, stakeholder capacities are uneven, which is one of the root causes of inequity. To promote more equitable participation remains a challenge, which we strived to overcome through a number of strategies. These included to (a) comprehensively analyse social networks in advance, especially in the Wilderness project (Roos 2015), (b) use community workers and community-based organisations as intermediaries to link the research team with historically neglected stakeholders, (c) advertise knowledge-sharing events in unusual places such as the local post office and schools, (d) use accessible bridging objects such as simple maps and participatory mapping exercises (see section on boundary objects below) to level the playing field and (e) organise knowledge-sharing events at or close to participants’ places of work and residence (see section on third places), to enter their comfort zones instead of inviting them into ours. Experts, novices and bridging agents A balance of seasoned professionals and novices can facilitate mentoring, succession and a constructive and complementary tension between more established and more open mindsets (Bransford et al. 2003). Following Bransford et al. (2003), we use ‘‘experts’’ to refer to experienced professionals who have acquired extensive knowledge that enhances their ability to interpret information, reason and solve problems. The competence credibility of these individuals lends trustworthiness to the projects in which they are involved, and in most cases, they Fig. 2 Hierarchies of knowledge based on the literature (a) and applied for the two case studies (b, c). A hierarchy of knowledge based on Jantsch (1972), Max-Neef (2005) and Reyers et al. (2010) (a) was used to map relevant transdisciplinary actors for the NFEPA (b) and Wilderness (c) projects, respectively. In b and c, the grey shading indicates the knowledge domain of the project team members, some of whom also acted as bridging agents. Boxes with solid outlines indicate actor groups that were successfully engaged and boxes with dotted outlines indicate actor groups that were deemed important to the respective studies but who were not successfully engaged within the duration of these projects. Connecting lines are used to indicate the actors between whom mutual learning occurred Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 717 123 are sought-after mentors or supervisors for less experienced workers. Novices on the other hand are eager to learn new things and do not have the restrictions of overly conditioned ‘‘habits of understanding’’ (sensu Ison (2010)), deeply entrenched beliefs or overburdened work schedules. They might be in a position to ‘‘see’’ new opportunities or solutions and to adopt ‘‘new ways of doing’’ in the workplace. At least some of the experts and novices should also be bridging agents, in this context referring to people skilled at connecting key individuals from different knowledge domains across the transdisciplinary knowledge network (Fig. 2). The NFEPA project team included experts, novices and bridging agents, spanning key national government departments, agencies and research facilities. However, relatively few experts and bridging agents came from provincial government departments. While the NFEPA project gave considerable attention to developing end-user readiness for its products (e.g. through facilitating participatory case studies within selected provinces), none of the nine provinces in South Africa had the full suite of aquatic and conservation expertise (Driver et al. 2011) to enable them to effectively discharge their mandates regarding freshwater conservation and management. Those provinces with relevant capacity (see Impson 2016) were markedly more active in the NFEPA engagement processes, which generally translated into stronger adoption of project outputs. Some provinces lacked the basic freshwater and conservation expertise required to effectively ‘‘absorb’’ the new information (Impson 2016). While we would suggest that transdisciplinary learning provides a platform for increasing the ‘‘absorptive capacity’’ (see Murray et al. 2011) of participants, there seems to be a minimum threshold of prior knowledge that enables participation in the first place and over which the transdisciplinary project has limited control. In the Wilderness project, the research team consisted of a number of established scientists (experts) as well as MSc/ MA/MTech- and PhD-level students (novices). Some of the team members were also natural bridging agents, and the project drew extensively on existing relationships between researchers and actors from across the transdisciplinary knowledge network (Fig. 2c). However, the same presence of experts and novices was not achieved within all stakeholder groups. For example, the dairy farmers and officials from the District Municipality appeared to be mostly established career experts, while the lack of novices in these groups might challenge their future institutional memory regarding lessons learned from this project. The Seven Passes Initiative, on the other hand, was represented mostly by young people from the Touwsranten community, and we had to actively recruit senior community members with historical knowledge. Engagement dynamics were further enhanced by natural networkers or ‘‘connectors’’ (sensu Gladwell 2000) both in the farming community and civic society groups. However, the project team was unable to find and engage such individuals within government, which no doubt hampered uptake of the project outcomes in these agencies. So while one may have an idea of who to learn with, finding these people can prove impossibly difficult and potentially impact the outcomes of transdisciplinary research. What to learn about? Individual learning proficiency is highest when learning about things that the individual already knows a lot about (Bransford et al. 2003). Furthermore, it is convenient to learn about these things with and from others who share the same language, belief, education and socio-economic status, because such similarities support effective communication (Rogers 1995). These two learning principles help to reinforce disciplinary focus and knowledge fragmentation in science. An important point of departure in transdisciplinary learning is to learn about things that will help to overcome perceived differentness (among the spectrum of actors/colearners that have been identified in the previous section) and work towards shared interest. Below we present two such learning themes. Each other’s histories, values and existing knowledge People’s perceptions of and responses to social–ecological change are likely to be context specific and grounded in place-based histories, social networks, cultural norms and institutional structures, and involve a variety of actors at all levels of society (Paschen and Ison 2014). To foster a better appreciation of the diverse perspectives that exist across a transdisciplinary knowledge network, actors should also learn about the perspectives of fellow actors in their social– ecological system. A starting point is to learn about each other’s histories, existing knowledge and realities. In the NFEPA project, actors from across the transdisciplinary network mostly had similar levels of education (tertiary) but displayed differences in work cultures (e.g. science, management, policy functions). From project inception, an effort was made to understand relevant policy contexts and to be reflective of the key policy issues (e.g. that NFEPA products should align with existing legislation and avoid spatial congruence with areas prioritised for economic development). Similarly, the project enabled interaction with conservation practitioners and the team endeavoured to understand their implementation realities, e.g. regarding resource limitations. The sociopolitical 718 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 123 history of South Africa featured in many discussions and the need to balance conservation aspirations with socioeconomic priorities was acknowledged. The Wilderness project was characterised by substantial dissimilarity among actors in terms of both education and work cultures. Dairy farmers, scientists, local government officials, residents of low-cost settlements and subsistence fishers are not naturally ‘‘members of the same flock’’. In this project, the research team made a dedicated effort to listen first (especially during the first year of the project) and to offer their perspectives only when asked. Initially, the dairy farmers did not see enough relevance in the project to commit their time. Through attending some of their meetings as observers (e.g. around a farmer’s kitchen table over coffee), the interest and commitment of the farmers grew to the point of becoming a key participant group by the end of the project. The fact that staff and students from the local university were part of the project team contributed to trust building. Some of the MSc/MA/MTech students integrated narrative enquiry in their research approach (e.g. Roos 2015; Buckle 2016; Mc Culloch 2016). These student researchers and other actors became co-learners, as opposed to investigators and subjects, participating in a mutual process of reflection and sense making. One MSc thesis focussed on synthesising historical events that played a significant role in shaping the social–ecological system of the Wilderness Basin (Roos 2015). Various stakeholders were surprised to learn how these events affected fellow stakeholders, and that they were all linked to some degree as inhabitants of the same basin. A general characteristic of both case studies was that scientists respectfully and empathetically listened to their transdisciplinary learning partners. Such listening helped to remove social distance and build trust among participants. Learning about each other also provided a deep understanding of the receiving environment for the project outputs. This helped to translate the new transdisciplinary insights into relevant and useful products. However, some of the actor groups, including publicsector departments and agencies, were ill-prepared to collaborate and learn with other actors. Reasons may include (a) prejudices (not able to ‘‘hear’’ views contrary to established beliefs), (b) capacity limitations (more specifically depth and breadth of project-related knowledge) and (c) inability to navigate power inequalities among actors. In such situations, which are particularly prevalent in developing countries, mutual learning and knowledge coproduction processes are likely to be slower than what researchers or funders desire (Reyers et al. 2010). However, in our experience, learning about each other’s worlds and realities contributed significantly to relationship building and subsequent willingness to engage in mutual learning on the theme of the particular project. Concepts that promote mutual understanding, and an aspirational common future Concepts represent generalisations or abstractions of how things work. In transdisciplinary research, shared concepts can help to steer mutual learning and foster common understanding. Acknowledging that people construct new understanding based on what they already know and believe (Bransford et al. 2003), the same concept may lead to different interpretations by different transdisciplinary actors. This diversity of perspectives contributes to a rich knowledge base from which a desired common future can be jointly articulated. In the NFEPA project, scientists summarised consensus, uncertainties and disagreements from the literature on systematic conservation planning and freshwater ecology. These were presented to policy officials and resource managers in a form that was relevant to their respective policy contexts and work mandates (see Roux et al. 2008). Through the resulting science–policy–management dialogue, concepts such as conservation targets, biodiversity representation, planning for efficiency and free-flowing rivers became part of the NFEPA narrative. These concepts facilitated sense making and exploration of mutual understanding. New terms such as ‘‘Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas (FEPAs’’) and ‘‘implementation-driven planning’’ emerged from the transdisciplinary learning process and helped to establish a sense of broad ownership through shared vocabulary. The project was directed by a national goal, namely ‘‘to conserve a sample of the full variety or diversity of inland water ecosystems that occur in South Africa… for present and future generations’’. This goal was itself the outcome of deliberations with policy officials across various sectors. It was widely ‘‘owned’’ and collectively disaggregated into five subordinate policy objectives and several implementation principles and recommendations (Roux et al. 2006), including a quantitative target of conserving 20% of all freshwater ecosystem types. The latter became influential and served as an aspirational vision for guiding the spatial delineation of FEPAs. The Wilderness project team used various engagements (e.g. sustainability dialogues) as opportunities to introduce selected concepts to stakeholders. These concepts included ecological infrastructure, ecosystem services, Anthropocene, co-management, stewardship and water quality. Learning about ecological infrastructure and ecosystem services helped a local government department to reconceptualise the links between their environmental management mandate and societal benefits. Dairy farmers could relate to the risk that toxic cyanobacteria pose to their cows Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 719 123 and hence the dangers associated with nutrient enrichment of farm dams. It was also rewarding to learn that, following one of the dialogues, a farmer had sourced further reading on the tragedy of the commons and that the concept has helped him to better understand social–ecological challenges in the area. During the third year of the project, actors from the Wilderness project identified the need for a common vision, articulating it as: ‘‘A healthy river system and healthy community through collective effort, beyond our own back yards’’ (O’Farrell et al. 2015). In both case studies, we found that most of the identified actors were open to (and interested in) learning about new concepts from science, especially those concepts that were also of direct relevance to their worlds. We found the skilful introduction of shared [scientific] concepts of interest to be an important catalyst for transdisciplinary learning. How to learn [together]? ‘‘How to learn’’ relates to designing interventions to ensure true co-learning and empowering actors to participate equally in the knowledge production process (Mobjo¨rk 2010). We found that knowledge co-production was a useful yardstick to aim for, defined by Armitage et al. (2011) as ‘‘the collaborative process of bringing a plurality of knowledge sources and types together to address a defined problem and build an integrated or systems-oriented understanding of that problem’’. Below we present two ways for facilitating learning that promoted knowledge co-production in our case studies, namely the use of boundary objects and third places. Embrace boundary objects Several academic communities recognise the importance of boundary objects but view and use the concept differently (Star and Griesemer 1989). Examples of boundary objects include models (White et al. 2010), indicators (Turnhout et al. 2007) and maps (Nel et al. 2016). Co-production of these objects can establish shared interest and at least overlapping understanding across multiple knowledge domains. Star and Griesemer (1989; page 393) suggest that boundary objects are useful ‘‘in developing and maintaining coherence across intersecting social worlds’’. In the NFEPA project, a national and several sub-national maps of FEPAs served as tangible tools and shared boundary objects to promote multi-agency cooperation in conserving freshwater biodiversity. These maps were collectively envisioned during the project’s initiation phase and were co-produced by diverse stakeholders through a series of interactive workshops. During these workshops, more than 450 individuals representing [1000 years of collective experience contributed knowledge to help design, revise and improve the maps (Fig. 3a, b) (Nel et al. 2016). This resulted in the broad ownership and utility of the FEPAs, which have found application in both national policy and decision-making processes, as well as local management in the water and biodiversity sectors (Nel et al. 2016). Examples of uptake include a national water resource strategy (DWS 2013), a national biodiversity assessment (Driver et al. 2012), water catchment management strategy and plans (Inkomati 2013) and a management plan for a national park (Roux et al. 2016). In the Wilderness project, maps depicting built and ecological infrastructure were used as boundary objects. Stakeholders were asked to partake in participatory mapping exercises (similar to focus group meetings, see Chambers 2006), typically with 4–5 individuals from a single actor group at one time. A list of prompts was used to guide the conversation and participants indicated their ‘‘answers’’ on the printed map using various colour pens to differentiate between ecological infrastructure, built infrastructure, and threats to those infrastructures, among other issues. Create ‘‘third places’’ A certain public space (also referred to as the agora) is required for scientists and practitioners to meet, share experiences and learn together (Nowotny et al. 2001; Pohl et al. 2010; Polk 2014). For both projects, we were inspired by a related concept that is relatively new to the transdisciplinary literature, namely Ray Oldenburg’s ‘‘third place’’. A third place refers to a social environment, other than home or the workplace, that provides a neutral ground for engagement, conversation and community building, and for establishing feelings of a sense of place (Oldenburg 1989). In a transdisciplinary sense, a third place represents a learning space at the interface between academia and practice, where academics and non-academics can have an equal voice when they engage to find common ground regarding particular social–ecological issues. In creating third places, there are some physical considerations. For example, using accessible yet attractive locations, and seating arrangements that encourages interaction. There are also non-physical design features such as creating a space where disciplinary boundaries become less clear and less intrinsically acceptable (e.g. through the careful use of language). Conversation or dialogue is the main activity taking place at third places. During the dialogue, it is likely, and perhaps desirable, that a third position will emerge, which is not an academic, traditional, management or policy position, but rather acknowledges and reflects the values and beliefs of all the relevant actors. It might not be 720 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 123 possible for any one actor group to imagine this third position without the rich interaction of all the positions during iterative issue framing, knowledge production and knowledge application. We propose that transdisciplinary work does not start once the third position emerges. Rather, the third position is a product of transdisciplinary engagement. The interactive workshops that characterised the NFEPA project were commonly held at a meeting facility in a botanical garden. The relatively neutral setting contributed to free and equal communication among policy officials, conservation practitioners, scientists and resource planners. These workshops were characterised by participants being fully engaged around a table covered with maps rather than sitting in a hall listening to presentations (Fig. 3a). The most notable third places that were created during the Wilderness project were in the form of ‘‘sustainability dialogues’’ following the World Cafe´ method (Oelofse and Cady 2012). This method facilitates group learning through multiple mini-dialogues that encourage participant interaction around questions formulated in a way to stimulate reflection and access the collective intelligence of the group as a source for innovative thinking (Brown and Isaacs 2008). Dialogues were held on the local university campus and in the hall of a local primary school (Fig. 3d). Care was taken to create a welcoming and open ambiance and to facilitate inclusive participation. For example, seating arrangements and refreshments mimicked a coffee shop rather than a lecture hall. Technical information was translated and shared in common English and Afrikaans (the local vernacular), often using metaphors, such as comparing a catchment to the human body when explaining its complex connections. Convenience, accessibility and neutrality were important considerations in selecting the venues and timing for dialogues. For example, several dairy farmers attended the dialogue in the school hall after dropping their children for school. The children helped arrange tables and chairs before school and farmers felt comfortable to attend with their work clothes. From the feedback of participants, these events were learning highlights. Fig. 3 Use of boundary objects and a third places in the two projects. Maps used as boundary objects in the NFEPA project served to facilitate stakeholder engagement (a) and evolved into spatially explicit conservation plans (b). In the Wilderness project, various actor groups could relate to ecological as well as built infrastructures on maps of their local areas (c), and the village school hall was a good third place for dialogues (d) Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 721 123 Lessons for transdisciplinary researchers In both our case studies, explicit efforts were made to involve actors from across the transdisciplinary knowledge network (Fig. 2). Retrospectively, we emphasise the value of a representative spread of experts and novices throughout the network including some skilful bridging agents. This was fulfilled by the respective project teams, who instilled an ethos of listening to (and learning about) transdisciplinary learning partners, to the point where there was sufficient social cohesion among actors to jointly formulate a common vision. Complementary learning about concepts of shared interest (e.g. conservation planning and stewardship of ecological infrastructure) helped to inform the vision. Boundary objects and third places were helpful mechanisms for facilitating transdisciplinary learning. Yet, when assessed against the systemic change achieved, the outcomes of the two case studies were different. The NFEPA project demonstrates how transdisciplinary learning and the associated emergence of coproduced and practice-based knowledge can fundamentally shift an institutional group story (in this case related to the conservation of freshwater ecosystems), with the NFEPA concepts and vocabulary now seemingly well entrenched in relevant policy, management plans and environmental practices (Nel et al. 2016). In the Wilderness project, enthusiastic participation and signs of an evolving group story did not translate into a systemic shift in institutional arrangements. The project team was not successful in securing a follow-on project, and the gains made during the Wilderness project seem vulnerable to regression. While we acknowledge that findings from case studies in social–ecological systems cannot be easily generalised due to the uniqueness of the setting, some insights from our case study experiences could act as lessons to other transdisciplinary researchers. Through applying the learning framework to our case studies, and reflecting on their different outcomes, we have distilled five generic lessons for transdisciplinary researchers. First, the duration, timing and continuation potential of a project influences its prospects for achieving systemic and sustainable change through transdisciplinary learning. At least six years of co-learning in the relevant science, policy and practice domains preceded the NFEPA project. A further five years of knowledge co-production served to consolidate and entrench the new knowledge. On the other hand, the Wilderness project was a newly initiated project. Although it served to establish conditions suitable to foster transdisciplinary learning, three years were insufficient to anchor the new knowledge systemically in this social– ecological system. This highlights a challenge for individual research projects and postgraduate studies that are framed as transdisciplinary research. Conventional funding arrangements and postgraduate studies offer limited opportunities for problem co-framing and knowledge coproduction with transdisciplinary actors (Esler et al. 2016), and limited scope for mid-course adaptations based on context-specific factors. It might be more realistic to conceive transdisciplinary research as a programme consisting of a number of complementary research projects that converge towards a common, but dynamic, goal (Roux et al. 2010). Second, bridging agents play a critical role in the social facilitation required for transdisciplinary learning. They migrate horizontally and vertically across the transdisciplinary knowledge network to connect different functions and domains, act as conduits for knowledge flows and reduce knowledge fragmentation. Our findings also indicate that the role of bridging agent should be embedded within an institution that has a primary interest in implementing the envisaged change. While excellent bridging agents may exist in academic institutions (e.g. universities, science councils), these institutions are not ideally placed for the long-term role of a bridging agent. During the NFEPA project, staff from the national biodiversity institute (SANBI) played a strong bridging role between national and provincial spheres of government, water and biodiversity policy sectors, and science and policy functions. SANBI could maintain its own NFEPA drive after the project concluded. At the same time, it is an influential policy institute that has been instrumental in entrenching NFEPA principles in various national policy developments. In the Wilderness project, the staff and students of the local university were successful bridging agents in that they were perceived as neutral and with a genuine interest in local issues. While they manage to facilitate dialogue among transdisciplinary actors, a lack of an institutionalised bridging agent hindered post-project sustainability. Some of the actors are now asking when the next meeting will take place, and without a related project this leaves the university bridging agent in a somewhat embarrassing position. Third, transdisciplinary learning holds the potential to put researchers, decision-makers and other knowledge users on equal footing. It challenges the notion of a researcher as the ‘‘expert’’ who ‘‘produces’’ knowledge that is ‘‘transferred’’ to users (Rogers 2006). Transdisciplinary researcher will need to expand their scope from being skilled at mastering a knowledge domain to also being skilled at participating in open learning systems and from participating in knowledge co-production to also being involved with its translation to action (Cornell et al. 2013). Fourth, transdisciplinary learning that is underpinned by mixed-paradigm research could help mend knowledge fragmentation within science. Our main focus in this paper 722 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 123 was on learning across science–stakeholder knowledge domains. However, learning across academia’s natural and social science cultures is also relevant. In the Wilderness project, postgraduate theses used narrative, empirical and action research designs (Buckle 2016; Crisp 2015; Mc Culloch 2016; Roos 2015). Complementarity, and indeed synergy, of results was facilitated by an overall project aim and regular dialogues. Students (and supervisors) from across social and biophysical subject areas interacted with remarkable ease and were generally appreciative of the broad exposure. We believe that a transdisciplinary approach with purposeful mixed-paradigm design could contribute to opening up new synergies between traditional divides of qualitative and quantitative research as well as inductive and deductive reasoning in science. Fifth, transdisciplinary researchers must constantly guard against three wicked pitfalls in mutual learning initiatives. The first is biases in participant self-selection as educated and wealthy participants have easier access to information, respond and interact faster, and nominate themselves more readily than those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The second is the perceived superiority of scientific knowledge and empirical (‘‘hard’’) data that is common among many types of stakeholders. Participants with experiential and informal knowledge struggle to legitimise their ‘‘data’’ and may withhold such information for fear of being ridiculed or looked down upon. The third is the ‘‘fatal attraction’’ of simple solutions to wicked problems. Participants who confidently propose (or impose) simple solutions gain traction and appeal. However, such solutions may often favour the status quo instead of innovation. We believe that our approach to mutual learning, while not being a silver bullet to the wicked problem of collaborative ecosystem management, can help guard against such pitfalls. Conclusions The global science community is more connected and learning faster than ever before. Governments and society in general are overwhelmed with rapid changes and frequent surprises and increasingly operate in a reactive mode. It is inherently challenging to maintain two-way knowledge flows between these two domains. Transdisciplinary research is an approach tailored to address this challenge. Although transdisciplinary research has a relatively long history of academic discourse, agreement on standards for its practice is still lacking. The development of such standards will depend on publishing insights that emerge from across diverse transdisciplinary research settings. Attention should also be given to the social processes (such as mutual learning) that form an inevitable part of transdisciplinary research. However, social processes introduce.

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The post has just arrived and in it a very nice surprise, the discovery that Jacques Seguela, one-time adviser to President Mitterrand, now close confidant of President and Madame Sarkozy (indeed he intoduced them), and something of a legend in French political communications, has dedicated his latest book to little old moi.

With apologies for the missing accents here and in the French bits of the long posting which follows – the dedication to ‘Le Pouvoir dans la Peau‘ (Power in the skin) reads ‘A Alastair Campbell, mon spin doctor prefere’ (three missing accents in one word – mes excuses sinceres).

So what did I do for this honour, you are asking? Well, perhaps the fact that he asked me to read his book, and write a ‘postface’ assessment both of his writing and of the issues he covers, and the fact that I said yes, has something to do with it. He says some blushmakingly kind things in his ‘preface to the postface’, which I will have to leave to French readers of the whole thing (published by Plon). But for the largely Anglophone visitors of this blog, I thought some of you might like to read the said ‘postface’ in English (apart from the bits where I quote direct from his book). I hope all those students who write asking for help with dissertations will find something quotable in it.

Meanwhile I am off to Norway for a conference and a meeting with the Norwegian Labour Party. I’m looking forward to being in the country with the highest ‘human development index’ in the world, and which showed such a mature response to the recent massacre of Oslo and Utoya.

Here is the postface to Le Pouvoir dans la Peau

Jacques Seguela writes about political campaigns and communications not merely as an expert analyst, but as an experienced practitioner. Hence his latest book contains both insights worth heeding, but also enlivening tales of his own experience. He is observer and participant; outsider looking in, and insider looking out. There is much to look at, not least in France with a Presidential election looming, and the outcome far from easy to predict.

We live in a world defined by the pace of change, and whilst the velocity of that change has not always impacted upon our political institutions, many of which would remain recognisable to figures of history, it most certainly has impacted upon political communications. As Seguela writes: ‘En 5 ans le monde de la communication a plus evolue que dans les cents dernieres annees. ‘ Google, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook have quickly entered our language and changed the way we communicate, live our private lives, do business, do politics. People do not believe politicians as much as they once did. Nor do they believe the media. So who do we believe? We believe each other. The power and the political potential of social networks flows from that reality. Though fiercely modern in their application, social networks in some ways take us back to the politics of the village square. They are an electronic word of mouth on a sometimes global scale. This has changed the way people interact with each other and with their politicians.

My first campaign as spokesman and strategist for Tony Blair was in 1997, three years in the planning after he had become leader of the Opposition Labour Party. Some of the principles of strategy we applied back then would certainly apply to a modern day election. But their tactical execution almost certainly would not. Politicians and their strategists have to adapt to change as well as lead it. Seguela gives some interesting insights into those who have adapted well, and those who have done less well. He clearly adores former President Lula of Brazil and you can feel his yearning for a French leader who can somehow combine hard-headed strategy with human empathy in the same way as a man who left office with satisfaction ratings of 87percent. Seguela probably remains best known in political circles for his role advising Francois Mitterrand. Yet wheras I am ‘tribal Labour’, and could not imagine supporting a Conservative Party candidate in the UK, Seguela came out as a major supporter of Nicolas Sarkozy. I wonder if one of the reasons was not a frustration that large parts of the left in France remain eternally suspicious of modern communications techniques and styles which, frankly, no modern leader in a modern democracy can ignore. How he or she adapts to, or uses, them is up to them. But you cannot stand aside and imagine the world has not changed.

If Lula is a star of this book, so too is Barack Obama. American elections are of enormous interest to all political campaign junkies, a category in which both Seguela and I would almost certainly qualify. Much is made of Obama’s use of the internet, a relatively new phenomenon in historical terms and one the young Senator used brilliantly in his quest to become President. Yet though it was an accurate expression of his modernity, underpinning its use were some very old-fashioned campaign principles. He used it to turn supporters into activists who both gave funds and also took his campaign materials and ideas and ran their own campaigns for him. Somehow he managed to make one of the most professional, most disciplined and best funded campaigns in history look like an enormous act of democratic participation.

It was less command and control – the model we certainly adopted in 1997 and 2001, Labour’s two landslide victories, easing off a little for our third win in 2005 – than ‘inspire and empower.’ ‘Yes we can’ not ‘yes I can’. His supporters were more than supporters. They were an active part of the campaign, and of the message. The key to this was something that had nothing to do with politicians and everything to do with science, technology and the internet. Ask me who has had the most influence on campaigns in recent times and I might be tempted to reply Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with gifting the web to the world. Its implications have been far reaching in virtually all aspects of our lives, politics and political campaigns foremost. The new household brand names of the cyber era have not replaced good policy work, messaging and organisation. But they have become essential components of the execution of them in the campaign. Mainstream conventional media remains important and influential, not least because, bizarrely, in most democracies the broadcasters continue to let the press set their agenda for them. But a candidate who tries to stand against the tide of new media will be making a big mistake, and missing big opportunities. If it has changed so much in the last five years, how much more will it change in the next five years?

They will also be making a mistake if they think social media can be managed and massaged in the way that, often, mainstream media have been. The key – on this I agree totally with Seguela – is authenticity. And that should be good news for authentic political leaders and an authenticity hungry public alike.

The public tend to get to the point of an election. Seguela has an interesting account of the last UK election and in particular the first ever televised Leaders’ Debates. Though I had worked on three campaigns for Tony Blair, I am sufficiently tribally Labour to have answered a call from his successor, Gordon Brown, to go back to help him for his first election campaign as leader in 2011. One of the roles I ended up playing was that of David Cameron in Brown’s preparatory sessions for the TV debates. These debates mattered, that much was sure. Election planning for Blair, I had always been doubtful about the benefit of such debates in a Parliamentary democracy where our leaders meet each other week in week out in the crucible of the House of Commons. I was worried the media would make them all about themselves, and that the policy issues would be drowned out. So it proved. Yet in a way the public did get to the point they wanted to. They did not particularly want Labour back after 13 years in power. They did not particularly yearn for David Cameron and a Conservative Party unsure about its direction. So the third party leader emerged through the middle. Nick Clegg was judged the clear winner by the instant reactions of public and media alike. For a few days he seemed impregnable. Yet come the vote, he did not make a huge breakthrough. It was only because neither Labour nor the Tories could get over the line that Clegg ended up as deputy Prime Minister in a coalition government. The country had not been able to make its mind up, delivered a muddled result and asked the leaders to sort it out. The leader who came first and the leader who came third did a deal to do so.

I think Seguela is too kind to Cameron. Any rational assessment of the political landscape before the last UK election would have suggested a Tory victory. Labour in power a long time; the economic crash; a Parliament dominated by a scandal involving MPs’ expenses; Iraq back in the news because of the official Inquiry; Afghanistan not going well; the press even more strongly in favour of a Tory win than they had been for a Labour win in 1997, and vicious about Brown. Also the Tories had big money to spend on the campaign and Labour did not. Yet Cameron could not secure a majority. Why not? There is no simple answer. The wonder of democracy lies in millions of people having their own experiences, impressions and judgements before deciding how to cast their vote. But the strategist in me says the simple answer is that Cameron lacked real strategic clarity. I think Sequela would agree that for all the changes that technological and mediatic change has forced upon political campaigns, strategy remains the key. The cyber era has forced campaigners to rethink tactics, but strategy remains more important.

He and I are clearly in agreement that John McCain’s appointment of Sarah Palin as running mate, for example, was a tactical masterstroke, but a strategic catastrophe. Tactically, he excited his base, gave the media a new toy, and momentarily unnnerved his opponent. Strategically he blew a hole through the two central planks of his campaign – experience, and being different from George Bush. In putting tactics before strategy, he broke one of the golden rules of campaigning.

Strategists like rules. We like points of principle to act as anchors. I like the rules in Seguela’s Chapter 5.

On vote pour une idee. Pas pour une ideologie.

On vote pour soi. Pas pour son candidat.

On vote pour un homme. Pas pour un parti.

On vote pour le professionalisme. Pas pour l’amateurisme.

On vote pour un projet pas pour le rejet.

On vote pour le coeur. Pas pour le rancoeur.

On vote pour le futur. Pas pour le passe.

On vote pour le bcbg. Pas pour le bling bling.

It is charmingly French that he illuminates the rule about voting for le couer pas pour le rancour to a tale of love and sex. ‘Si votre femme vous trompe, ce n’est pas en couvrant d’insulte son amant que vous le reconquerez. Mais en lui redonnant envie de vous. La mecanique electorale est le meme, se faire elire c’est se faire preferer.’ That may seem glib. But politics is a human business. It is about feelings as well as policies, emotion as well as reason. People often talk about their political leaders as though in a relationship with them. ‘He’s not listening … Why on earth did he do that? … I’ve gone off him … Oh, I still like him deep down.’ Political leaders sometimes talk of the people in the same way. How many times did I sit in the back of a car with Tony Blair, or fly over Britain in a ‘plane and he would look down and say ‘God, I wish I knew what they were thinking … Do they still like us?’ Back at the time of our first landslide, talk of the country ‘falling in love’ with Blair was widespread. Today, the biggest accusations of betrayal against Blair will often come from those who ‘fell in love’ most deeply at the outset of his leadership. Perhaps this trend towards relationship politics is being exacerbated by the tendency towards younger leaders. Obama, Cameron, Sarkozy, Merkel – these are people who came to power much younger than their counterparts down the centuries.

Seguela, a man of a certain age, remains fascinated by youth and its impact. The brand manager in him can barely disguise his glee that Coca Cola, the drink of the young trendy, is 130 years old. You can sense the excitement he felt on meeting the young Americans – not born when Seguela was advising Mitterrand – who had developed Obama’s digital strategy and so helped deliver a mailing list of 13m people. The focus on youth also dominates his analysis of the political consequences of the economic crash whose impact runs through these pages, and offers some fascinating factoids – half of all Europeans are over 50, whilst three quarters of Algerians are under 25. There are as many people under 30 in China as in Russia, the US and Australia combined, and in India twice as many as in China. That too is a powerful force of global change, and will have its impact on Western politics of the future.

As to what it all means for the next French elections, I don’t know. But this book provides part of the backdrop, economic and political. It should make interesting reading for anyone involved in that campaign. Whilst clearly still of the view Sarkozy was and is the right choice for France, (though the polls at the time of writing indicate he is in a minority) he throws out ideas and challenges for right and left alike. As traditional lines are drawn, careful reading might provoke candidates and parties to see that they should always be looking to the next new ideas, not merely repackaging the last new, let alone the old.

I was in Paris recently as a guest of the left think tank, Terra Nova, and met politicians, advisors, militants, experts, journalists and bloggers. I came away with some strong impressions. Firstly, virtually everyone told me that President Sarkozy was hugely unpopular, and his ratings as low as it was possible to go. Yet many of the same people told me he could still win. They know he relishes a campaign. They suspect he may have learned from some mistakes. Incumbency is a powerful weapon. A comeback is a powerful narrative. And they worried that with the President so unpopular, the economy sluggish, social issues raw, and the left in power in many parts of France, the PS should have been doing far better in the polls (to which, incidentally, French politicians and media pay far too much attention.)

Of course this was pre selection of a PS candidate. Many of the Socialists agreed with my analysis that once they had chosen the candidate, they needed to unite behind that candidate, resist their historic predilection for factionalism, run a campaign that was fresh, energetic and based upon a programme totally focused on the future and one which addressed people’s concerns. They agreed too that the PS could no longer look down its nose at communication, but had to see it not just as an essential element of campaigning, but a democratic duty at a time when people have so many pressures on their lives and living standards, and concerns about the world around them. But though they agreed with the analysis, some worried about the Party’s capacity to deliver upon it. The fear of another defeat ought to be enough, surely, to deliver on the first and essential part: unity. As someone on the progressive side of the political divide, I continue to think the French left’s over intellectualisation of politics, its focus on never-ending debate instead of agreement around big points and unity behind one accepted leader remains a problem.

I added that I felt the way was wide open for someone to come along and set out, with total honesty and clarity, the challenges ahead, the limitations of what one leader or one country can do, but explain the world and begin to shape direction. In other words, what I sensed behind the seeming confusion and rather disgruntled nature of French opinion was a real desire for leadership of a strategic rather than a tactical nature. There too, there were concerns, not least because of memories of the negative impact on Lionel Jospin’s campaign when he stated – truthfully – that the State could not do everything.

I heard a lot about Marine Le Pen and certainly the polls tell a good story for the leader of the Front National. She has certainly shown she can mount a campaign and get the media to accept a sense of change. When even her enemies refer to as Marine, rather than the more toxic Le Pen, that is something of a success. But whenever I have heard her, I have not heard a powerful argument for the future of France.

So France enters a fascinating period, where not one single person I met predicted the outcome of either first or second round without at least some doubt in their eyes. When things are so tight, communications can make the difference. It is not a dirty word.

I don’t agree with all of Seguela’s analysis. I don’t accept that only four US presidents radically changed the country. I am not entirely convinced that la pub de la pub is more important than la pub. I am not sure that David Cameron’s loss of a child had the political impact Seguela thinks it did. I think Brits will be also be surprised at the dominant role he gives in the Tory campaign to his colleague David Jones. I think he overstates how Sarkozy is seen in the world. I agree with him that we need to be cautious about the potential abuse of the internet which has no global governance or regulation to match, but I’m not sure I agree this risks being ‘en bras arme de l’anarchie’. But it is a book full of understanding of some of the big themes and the small details required for a successful campaigning mindset.

He is, as one would expect for someone who has been close to different leaders, clued up on the importance of good chemistry between leader and strategist. He understands the importance of body language as well as language. He knows the importance of emotion as well as reason. He understands how the web is changing politics. One of my favourite phrases is that ‘life is on the record’. He has a different way of putting it. ‘Le “off” n’existe plus desormais. Tout ce que vous direz pourra se retourner contre vous.’ It is why the whole ‘droit d’etre oublie’ is emerging as a debate. How many of the young men and women today filling the web with pictures and confessions from their private lives may end up running for office one day, and regretting their openness? On verra.

Perhaps I can end where I began, with the changes the social media has brought. At the last election Labour did not do poster campaigns. This was a shame. In previous campaigns we had had some brilliant posters. But under Gordon Brown, we had very little money for the campaign. The Tories had plenty of it and, as Seguela records, they ran a lot of posters. One of their most expensive billboard campaigns was of a giant photo of Cameron with an anti-Labour slogan ‘we can’t go on like this.’ Someone noticed that the Tory leader’s face had been airbrushed. This fact became the source of thousands of tweets. Then someone set up a website mydavidcameron.com where people could send their own, largely anti-Tory, versions of this poster. These were sent in in their thousands, and many were much better, wittier and more politically devastating than the original. I’ll tell you when I knew they had wasted their money – when the newspapers carried photos of one giant poster site which had been defaced … Cameron’s hair had been replaced with a painted version of Elvis Presley’s hair, and to the slogan ‘we can’t go on like this’ had been added the words of one of Elvis’ most famous songs … ‘with suspicious minds’. The combination of the internet and wit had reduced the political impact of a hugely expensive campaign to zero. That is my final thought as you begin to read Jacques Seguela’s account. It is a quote from a former colleague, Labour MP Hazel Blears … ‘Campaigning is like sex. If you’re not enjoying it, you’re not doing it properly.’
 
Dragon5000

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The post has just arrived and in it a very nice surprise, the discovery that Jacques Seguela, one-time adviser to President Mitterrand, now close confidant of President and Madame Sarkozy (indeed he intoduced them), and something of a legend in French political communications, has dedicated his latest book to little old moi.

With apologies for the missing accents here and in the French bits of the long posting which follows – the dedication to ‘Le Pouvoir dans la Peau‘ (Power in the skin) reads ‘A Alastair Campbell, mon spin doctor prefere’ (three missing accents in one word – mes excuses sinceres).

So what did I do for this honour, you are asking? Well, perhaps the fact that he asked me to read his book, and write a ‘postface’ assessment both of his writing and of the issues he covers, and the fact that I said yes, has something to do with it. He says some blushmakingly kind things in his ‘preface to the postface’, which I will have to leave to French readers of the whole thing (published by Plon). But for the largely Anglophone visitors of this blog, I thought some of you might like to read the said ‘postface’ in English (apart from the bits where I quote direct from his book). I hope all those students who write asking for help with dissertations will find something quotable in it.

Meanwhile I am off to Norway for a conference and a meeting with the Norwegian Labour Party. I’m looking forward to being in the country with the highest ‘human development index’ in the world, and which showed such a mature response to the recent massacre of Oslo and Utoya.

Here is the postface to Le Pouvoir dans la Peau

Jacques Seguela writes about political campaigns and communications not merely as an expert analyst, but as an experienced practitioner. Hence his latest book contains both insights worth heeding, but also enlivening tales of his own experience. He is observer and participant; outsider looking in, and insider looking out. There is much to look at, not least in France with a Presidential election looming, and the outcome far from easy to predict.

We live in a world defined by the pace of change, and whilst the velocity of that change has not always impacted upon our political institutions, many of which would remain recognisable to figures of history, it most certainly has impacted upon political communications. As Seguela writes: ‘En 5 ans le monde de la communication a plus evolue que dans les cents dernieres annees. ‘ Google, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook have quickly entered our language and changed the way we communicate, live our private lives, do business, do politics. People do not believe politicians as much as they once did. Nor do they believe the media. So who do we believe? We believe each other. The power and the political potential of social networks flows from that reality. Though fiercely modern in their application, social networks in some ways take us back to the politics of the village square. They are an electronic word of mouth on a sometimes global scale. This has changed the way people interact with each other and with their politicians.

My first campaign as spokesman and strategist for Tony Blair was in 1997, three years in the planning after he had become leader of the Opposition Labour Party. Some of the principles of strategy we applied back then would certainly apply to a modern day election. But their tactical execution almost certainly would not. Politicians and their strategists have to adapt to change as well as lead it. Seguela gives some interesting insights into those who have adapted well, and those who have done less well. He clearly adores former President Lula of Brazil and you can feel his yearning for a French leader who can somehow combine hard-headed strategy with human empathy in the same way as a man who left office with satisfaction ratings of 87percent. Seguela probably remains best known in political circles for his role advising Francois Mitterrand. Yet wheras I am ‘tribal Labour’, and could not imagine supporting a Conservative Party candidate in the UK, Seguela came out as a major supporter of Nicolas Sarkozy. I wonder if one of the reasons was not a frustration that large parts of the left in France remain eternally suspicious of modern communications techniques and styles which, frankly, no modern leader in a modern democracy can ignore. How he or she adapts to, or uses, them is up to them. But you cannot stand aside and imagine the world has not changed.

If Lula is a star of this book, so too is Barack Obama. American elections are of enormous interest to all political campaign junkies, a category in which both Seguela and I would almost certainly qualify. Much is made of Obama’s use of the internet, a relatively new phenomenon in historical terms and one the young Senator used brilliantly in his quest to become President. Yet though it was an accurate expression of his modernity, underpinning its use were some very old-fashioned campaign principles. He used it to turn supporters into activists who both gave funds and also took his campaign materials and ideas and ran their own campaigns for him. Somehow he managed to make one of the most professional, most disciplined and best funded campaigns in history look like an enormous act of democratic participation.

It was less command and control – the model we certainly adopted in 1997 and 2001, Labour’s two landslide victories, easing off a little for our third win in 2005 – than ‘inspire and empower.’ ‘Yes we can’ not ‘yes I can’. His supporters were more than supporters. They were an active part of the campaign, and of the message. The key to this was something that had nothing to do with politicians and everything to do with science, technology and the internet. Ask me who has had the most influence on campaigns in recent times and I might be tempted to reply Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with gifting the web to the world. Its implications have been far reaching in virtually all aspects of our lives, politics and political campaigns foremost. The new household brand names of the cyber era have not replaced good policy work, messaging and organisation. But they have become essential components of the execution of them in the campaign. Mainstream conventional media remains important and influential, not least because, bizarrely, in most democracies the broadcasters continue to let the press set their agenda for them. But a candidate who tries to stand against the tide of new media will be making a big mistake, and missing big opportunities. If it has changed so much in the last five years, how much more will it change in the next five years?

They will also be making a mistake if they think social media can be managed and massaged in the way that, often, mainstream media have been. The key – on this I agree totally with Seguela – is authenticity. And that should be good news for authentic political leaders and an authenticity hungry public alike.

The public tend to get to the point of an election. Seguela has an interesting account of the last UK election and in particular the first ever televised Leaders’ Debates. Though I had worked on three campaigns for Tony Blair, I am sufficiently tribally Labour to have answered a call from his successor, Gordon Brown, to go back to help him for his first election campaign as leader in 2011. One of the roles I ended up playing was that of David Cameron in Brown’s preparatory sessions for the TV debates. These debates mattered, that much was sure. Election planning for Blair, I had always been doubtful about the benefit of such debates in a Parliamentary democracy where our leaders meet each other week in week out in the crucible of the House of Commons. I was worried the media would make them all about themselves, and that the policy issues would be drowned out. So it proved. Yet in a way the public did get to the point they wanted to. They did not particularly want Labour back after 13 years in power. They did not particularly yearn for David Cameron and a Conservative Party unsure about its direction. So the third party leader emerged through the middle. Nick Clegg was judged the clear winner by the instant reactions of public and media alike. For a few days he seemed impregnable. Yet come the vote, he did not make a huge breakthrough. It was only because neither Labour nor the Tories could get over the line that Clegg ended up as deputy Prime Minister in a coalition government. The country had not been able to make its mind up, delivered a muddled result and asked the leaders to sort it out. The leader who came first and the leader who came third did a deal to do so.

I think Seguela is too kind to Cameron. Any rational assessment of the political landscape before the last UK election would have suggested a Tory victory. Labour in power a long time; the economic crash; a Parliament dominated by a scandal involving MPs’ expenses; Iraq back in the news because of the official Inquiry; Afghanistan not going well; the press even more strongly in favour of a Tory win than they had been for a Labour win in 1997, and vicious about Brown. Also the Tories had big money to spend on the campaign and Labour did not. Yet Cameron could not secure a majority. Why not? There is no simple answer. The wonder of democracy lies in millions of people having their own experiences, impressions and judgements before deciding how to cast their vote. But the strategist in me says the simple answer is that Cameron lacked real strategic clarity. I think Sequela would agree that for all the changes that technological and mediatic change has forced upon political campaigns, strategy remains the key. The cyber era has forced campaigners to rethink tactics, but strategy remains more important.

He and I are clearly in agreement that John McCain’s appointment of Sarah Palin as running mate, for example, was a tactical masterstroke, but a strategic catastrophe. Tactically, he excited his base, gave the media a new toy, and momentarily unnnerved his opponent. Strategically he blew a hole through the two central planks of his campaign – experience, and being different from George Bush. In putting tactics before strategy, he broke one of the golden rules of campaigning.

Strategists like rules. We like points of principle to act as anchors. I like the rules in Seguela’s Chapter 5.

On vote pour une idee. Pas pour une ideologie.

On vote pour soi. Pas pour son candidat.

On vote pour un homme. Pas pour un parti.

On vote pour le professionalisme. Pas pour l’amateurisme.

On vote pour un projet pas pour le rejet.

On vote pour le coeur. Pas pour le rancoeur.

On vote pour le futur. Pas pour le passe.

On vote pour le bcbg. Pas pour le bling bling.

It is charmingly French that he illuminates the rule about voting for le couer pas pour le rancour to a tale of love and sex. ‘Si votre femme vous trompe, ce n’est pas en couvrant d’insulte son amant que vous le reconquerez. Mais en lui redonnant envie de vous. La mecanique electorale est le meme, se faire elire c’est se faire preferer.’ That may seem glib. But politics is a human business. It is about feelings as well as policies, emotion as well as reason. People often talk about their political leaders as though in a relationship with them. ‘He’s not listening … Why on earth did he do that? … I’ve gone off him … Oh, I still like him deep down.’ Political leaders sometimes talk of the people in the same way. How many times did I sit in the back of a car with Tony Blair, or fly over Britain in a ‘plane and he would look down and say ‘God, I wish I knew what they were thinking … Do they still like us?’ Back at the time of our first landslide, talk of the country ‘falling in love’ with Blair was widespread. Today, the biggest accusations of betrayal against Blair will often come from those who ‘fell in love’ most deeply at the outset of his leadership. Perhaps this trend towards relationship politics is being exacerbated by the tendency towards younger leaders. Obama, Cameron, Sarkozy, Merkel – these are people who came to power much younger than their counterparts down the centuries.

Seguela, a man of a certain age, remains fascinated by youth and its impact. The brand manager in him can barely disguise his glee that Coca Cola, the drink of the young trendy, is 130 years old. You can sense the excitement he felt on meeting the young Americans – not born when Seguela was advising Mitterrand – who had developed Obama’s digital strategy and so helped deliver a mailing list of 13m people. The focus on youth also dominates his analysis of the political consequences of the economic crash whose impact runs through these pages, and offers some fascinating factoids – half of all Europeans are over 50, whilst three quarters of Algerians are under 25. There are as many people under 30 in China as in Russia, the US and Australia combined, and in India twice as many as in China. That too is a powerful force of global change, and will have its impact on Western politics of the future.

As to what it all means for the next French elections, I don’t know. But this book provides part of the backdrop, economic and political. It should make interesting reading for anyone involved in that campaign. Whilst clearly still of the view Sarkozy was and is the right choice for France, (though the polls at the time of writing indicate he is in a minority) he throws out ideas and challenges for right and left alike. As traditional lines are drawn, careful reading might provoke candidates and parties to see that they should always be looking to the next new ideas, not merely repackaging the last new, let alone the old.

I was in Paris recently as a guest of the left think tank, Terra Nova, and met politicians, advisors, militants, experts, journalists and bloggers. I came away with some strong impressions. Firstly, virtually everyone told me that President Sarkozy was hugely unpopular, and his ratings as low as it was possible to go. Yet many of the same people told me he could still win. They know he relishes a campaign. They suspect he may have learned from some mistakes. Incumbency is a powerful weapon. A comeback is a powerful narrative. And they worried that with the President so unpopular, the economy sluggish, social issues raw, and the left in power in many parts of France, the PS should have been doing far better in the polls (to which, incidentally, French politicians and media pay far too much attention.)

Of course this was pre selection of a PS candidate. Many of the Socialists agreed with my analysis that once they had chosen the candidate, they needed to unite behind that candidate, resist their historic predilection for factionalism, run a campaign that was fresh, energetic and based upon a programme totally focused on the future and one which addressed people’s concerns. They agreed too that the PS could no longer look down its nose at communication, but had to see it not just as an essential element of campaigning, but a democratic duty at a time when people have so many pressures on their lives and living standards, and concerns about the world around them. But though they agreed with the analysis, some worried about the Party’s capacity to deliver upon it. The fear of another defeat ought to be enough, surely, to deliver on the first and essential part: unity. As someone on the progressive side of the political divide, I continue to think the French left’s over intellectualisation of politics, its focus on never-ending debate instead of agreement around big points and unity behind one accepted leader remains a problem.

I added that I felt the way was wide open for someone to come along and set out, with total honesty and clarity, the challenges ahead, the limitations of what one leader or one country can do, but explain the world and begin to shape direction. In other words, what I sensed behind the seeming confusion and rather disgruntled nature of French opinion was a real desire for leadership of a strategic rather than a tactical nature. There too, there were concerns, not least because of memories of the negative impact on Lionel Jospin’s campaign when he stated – truthfully – that the State could not do everything.

I heard a lot about Marine Le Pen and certainly the polls tell a good story for the leader of the Front National. She has certainly shown she can mount a campaign and get the media to accept a sense of change. When even her enemies refer to as Marine, rather than the more toxic Le Pen, that is something of a success. But whenever I have heard her, I have not heard a powerful argument for the future of France.

So France enters a fascinating period, where not one single person I met predicted the outcome of either first or second round without at least some doubt in their eyes. When things are so tight, communications can make the difference. It is not a dirty word.

I don’t agree with all of Seguela’s analysis. I don’t accept that only four US presidents radically changed the country. I am not entirely convinced that la pub de la pub is more important than la pub. I am not sure that David Cameron’s loss of a child had the political impact Seguela thinks it did. I think Brits will be also be surprised at the dominant role he gives in the Tory campaign to his colleague David Jones. I think he overstates how Sarkozy is seen in the world. I agree with him that we need to be cautious about the potential abuse of the internet which has no global governance or regulation to match, but I’m not sure I agree this risks being ‘en bras arme de l’anarchie’. But it is a book full of understanding of some of the big themes and the small details required for a successful campaigning mindset.

He is, as one would expect for someone who has been close to different leaders, clued up on the importance of good chemistry between leader and strategist. He understands the importance of body language as well as language. He knows the importance of emotion as well as reason. He understands how the web is changing politics. One of my favourite phrases is that ‘life is on the record’. He has a different way of putting it. ‘Le “off” n’existe plus desormais. Tout ce que vous direz pourra se retourner contre vous.’ It is why the whole ‘droit d’etre oublie’ is emerging as a debate. How many of the young men and women today filling the web with pictures and confessions from their private lives may end up running for office one day, and regretting their openness? On verra.

Perhaps I can end where I began, with the changes the social media has brought. At the last election Labour did not do poster campaigns. This was a shame. In previous campaigns we had had some brilliant posters. But under Gordon Brown, we had very little money for the campaign. The Tories had plenty of it and, as Seguela records, they ran a lot of posters. One of their most expensive billboard campaigns was of a giant photo of Cameron with an anti-Labour slogan ‘we can’t go on like this.’ Someone noticed that the Tory leader’s face had been airbrushed. This fact became the source of thousands of tweets. Then someone set up a website mydavidcameron.com where people could send their own, largely anti-Tory, versions of this poster. These were sent in in their thousands, and many were much better, wittier and more politically devastating than the original. I’ll tell you when I knew they had wasted their money – when the newspapers carried photos of one giant poster site which had been defaced … Cameron’s hair had been replaced with a painted version of Elvis Presley’s hair, and to the slogan ‘we can’t go on like this’ had been added the words of one of Elvis’ most famous songs … ‘with suspicious minds’. The combination of the internet and wit had reduced the political impact of a hugely expensive campaign to zero. That is my final thought as you begin to read Jacques Seguela’s account. It is a quote from a former colleague, Labour MP Hazel Blears … ‘Campaigning is like sex. If you’re not enjoying it, you’re not doing it properly.’
Thank you, for tanking the time to write your thoughts on the matter.
very insightful
 
mrswag44

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This is the simple guide to learning how to learn:

Have you ever wanted to learn, but you aren't good at learning and you get discouraged. well let me take you on a story and I hope you learn some things about learning how to learn. Firstly, How to Learn Together, Apart Ewan Jones 12 June 2020 If, in years to come, an intrepid researcher writes a dissertation upon the history of technology-assisted synchronous learning, her or his first chapter may well find room for 7 January 1977. It was on this day that the Collège de France attempted what it didn’t yet call a simulcast of Roland Barthes’s inaugural lecture, Barthes having recently been elected to the chair of Sémiologie Littéraire.1 The Collège live broadcasted the proceedings to the overspill of students unable to access the main lecture hall. Barthes’s performance uncannily anticipates the present order to which, with drastic quickness, we’ve become accustomed. Claude Coste notes that “the first session in particular suffered a number of interruptions: the retransmission not working, the irritated amusement of the students, having to send out for a technician, Barthes’s own embarrassment at the many technical failings.”2 This anecdote reassures me whenever I loiter in the limbo of a Zoom waiting room. In addition to its means of delivery, the substance of Barthes’s lectures has much to say to our present selves. View attachment 1604471

The first course of public talks and seminars that he delivered from January–May 1977, under the nearly impossibly large title Comment vivre ensemble, parallels and prefigures our contemporary world so uncannily that at times I wonder whether it’s a trick of the lockdown-induced paranoid mind. Barthes surveys a wide variety of isolated, ascetic, or otherwise self-distancing communities: the quotidian Critical Inquiry 47 (Winter 2021) © 2021 by The University of Chicago. 00093-1896/21/47S2-0020$10.00. All rights reserved. 1. See Roland Barthes, “Lecon Inaugurale au Collège de France,” 7 Jan. 1977, ubusound .memoryoftheworld.org/barthes_roland/Barthes-Roland_Lecon-inaugurale-au-College-de-France -7-Janvier-1977.mp3 2. Barthes, How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of Some Everyday Spaces, trans. Kate Briggs (New York, 2013), p. xviii; hereafter abbreviated H. rituals of monastic life in Mount Athos; the sanatorium in which Hans Castorp intended only to spend a few days; the small room in which Blanche Monnier was sequestered for twenty-five years by parents disappointed by her refusal of an eligible marriage, and who later inspired André Gide’s “Confined Woman of Poitiers.” “What distance must I maintain between myself and others if we are to construct together a sociability without alienation, a solitude without exile?” (H, p. xxv). Barthes was, as with much besides, the inadvertent prophet of COVID-19. The laundry van that hit Barthes requires us to start thinking where his unfinished lectures left off.
View attachment 1604472
I’ve been using the hyphenated thoughts and trailing ellipses of Comment vivre ensemble as essential tools to help me make sense of and stay sane through the current times in which we live. Barely a half day goes by without my being reminded of a concept that Barthes borrows from Jacques Lacarrière’s L’éte grec: idiorrhythmy—a constraining social space that nevertheless does not preclude individual freedom. Quotidian lockdown life is itself an idiorrhythmic case study. A conversation just the other day with a colleague, returned to care for her frail and elderly mother, Zooming her students as the distinguished academic that she is, from a childhood bedroom that reminds her of the child that she also still is. (She was shaken from her scholarly reflections when, through the window, she saw her mother, hanging laundry, fall.) My students, attempting as best they can to curate bare bookshelves in houses where reading was not encouraged. My own experience, stranded in an unfamiliar city, ordering cheap and pathetically small prints of artworks by Amy Sillman and Georges-Pierre Seurat, which I pin to the white walls of my unfamiliar apartment, just as when young I used to glue culture cut from newspapers (I was terrified that I would lose it). Art for art’s sake, revealed for what it always was: a means of getting through the day. The pandemic has enabled an efflorescence of thoughts on the modalities of isolated thinking and feeling—to which the Critical Inquiry blog has provided signal contributions.3 As a means of opening up a dialogue with work that has sustained me, I want for the remainder of this disquisitioncum-diary-entry to pick up and carry further Irina Dumitrescu and Caleb Ewan Jones is a lecturer in English at Cambridge and a fellow of Downing College. He has just finished a second book on the history of the concept of rhythm in the nineteenth century and is working on a series of oblique pedagogical strategies that seek to extend and to deform historical practices of close (or slow) reading, looking, and listening. 3. See “Posts from the Pandemic,” In the Moment, critinq.wordpress.com/2020/04/28/posts -from-the-pandemic/ S124 Ewan Jones / How to Learn Together, Apart Smith’s discussion of lockdown distraction, which itself shares much in common with Barthes’s considerations of monastic cohabitation.4 What follows are flash reflections (half-cooled hot takes) on what the continuing pandemic might entail both for critical theory and applied pedagogy. I list these two aspects of life and thought as if they were separate, when what I really want is to heal their rift. First, critical theory. COVID-19 doesn’t only append a further compelling case study to the several recent scholarly treatments of attention; it radically alters the position from which any theorist of distraction speaks. Much of the most distinguished work in this field has considered cultures of attentiveness (or inattentiveness) from a broadly Foucauldian or immanently critical perspective.5 Yet such work often betrays a revealing tension, between a onesize-fits-all process of subjectivation through which societies trammel or compel or mutilate attention and the curious freedom of the critical theorist to (undistractedly) read artworks or conduct often brilliantly erudite ideology critique. The present pandemic disallows us that privileged freedom: if nothing else, COVID-19 might help us to acknowledge the cognitive distractions and corporeal fatigue that always operate but which are now raised to a new and possibly useful level. In so doing, we might undo the distance between subjects and objects of knowledge; we might view the many previous cultures of distraction (ranging from the religious communities that mortified the senses, to the manual workers who labor automatically or involuntarily, to the nineteenth-century psychophysiologists who willfully overextend cognitive reach) not merely as pathologies or casualties of society but also as prospective resources. Immanent critique might then finally assume the concrete form to which it more often than not only pays lip service. Such questions are to my mind inseparable from our teaching practice. In his Literary Criticism: A Concise Political History, Joseph North proposes “radical pedagogy” as one means by which the humanities might heal its diremption from social praxis.6 I could not agree more vehemently, while at the same time wishing for a clearer sense of what such practice might entail, beyond a charismatic reading that compels assent.
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I teach English at Downing College, where decades ago F. R. Leavis famously held court; returning alumnae often tell me how much his forcefulness depended upon the small-group 4. See Irina Dumitrescu and Caleb Smith, “The Demon of Distraction,” in “Posts from the Pandemic,” an online supplement to Critical Inquiry 47 (Winter 2021): S77–81. 5. A representative instance is Jonathan Crary’s Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture (Cambridge, Mass., 1999). 6. Joseph North, Literary Criticism: A Concise Political History (Cambridge, Mass., 2017), p. 107. Critical Inquiry / Winter 2021 S125 supervision. We cannot now gather in such small rooms for the foreseeable future (on the morning that I write this, my university has just announced that all lectures for the 2020/21 academic year will be conducted online). Yet this sad eventuality might enable forms of pedagogy less dependent upon charisma: “perhaps the ideal lecture course would be one,” Barthes selfdeflatingly declared, “where the professor—the locutor—is less interesting than his audience” (H, pp. 133, 134.). And yet even Barthes struggled in this respect. He had intended the thirteenth and concluding lecture of Comment vivre ensembleto take up the varying responses of his audience and by so doing produce a practical instance of “Living Together.” As things transpired, however, the session did not take place, with Barthes retreating (with uncharacteristic bashfulness) behind the dialogical yet defiantly written form of A Lover’s Discourse (1977), on which he was concurrently engaged (see H, pp. 130–31.). But I believe that spatial constraints and technological innovations, which COVID-19 has thrust upon us, can inspire us to recover Barthes’s cancelled utopia of pedagogical idiorrhythmy. Not, perhaps, by adopting the forms of instantaneous feedback that increasingly characterize digital life: I am not calling for students to annotate lectures as they can new music tracks via SoundCloud, or to “react,” live on YouTube, to literature or to taught content. (Though why not? Such experiments might prove valuable, particularly if they reconnect students to the immediacy and gesturality of aesthetic response.) Rather, I’ve been developing over the past weeks a range of technologically mediated pedagogical exercises that intend both to extend and to reorient the forms of close and slow looking and listening that have historically characterized our critical practices. They include: asking undergraduate students to curate their own bedrooms, by cutting out images from newspapers or printing photographs from the internet so as to produce an exhibition in which they live; “paraphrasing” the television or Netflix series upon which for excellent reasons they need to binge into a prosodic form (ottava rima, Spenserian stanzas, and others) that they choose or that is chosen for them— or the relating of a given poem to the texture of objects in their immediate environment, so as to focus attention upon the tactile experience that has not only been overlooked by so much art criticism but also prohibited by the pandemic. Such exercises might provide means not only of reanimating our own pedagogical approaches but also of building tentative bridges to other forms of communal or institutional life with which higher education presently seems to hold little in common. I don’t know about you, but most days I spend some of the time feeling like the teacher of literature that I am, sometimes S126 Ewan Jones / How to Learn Together, Apart like a prisoner fortunate enough to have a stable internet connection, sometimes like an insatiably curious child, sometimes like a prematurely retired person trying to stave off early-onset cognitive degeneration. We all are all these things. COVID-19 is not a crisis that we can afford to waste.
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Transdisciplinary research for systemic change: who to learn with, what to learn about and how to learn Dirk J. Roux1,2 • Jeanne L. Nel2,3 • Georgina Cundill4,5 • Patrick O’Farrell3,6 • Christo Fabricius2 Received: 18 August 2016 / Accepted: 6 June 2017 / Published online: 16 June 2017 Springer Japan KK 2017 Abstract A key aim of transdisciplinary research is for actors from science, policy and practice to co-evolve their understanding of a social–ecological issue, reconcile their diverse perspectives and co-produce appropriate knowledge to serve a common purpose. With its concurrent grounding in practice and science, transdisciplinary research represents a significant departure from conventional research. We focus on mutual learning within transdisciplinary research and highlight three aspects that could guide other researchers in designing and facilitating such learning. These are: ‘‘who to learn with’’, ‘‘what to learn about’’ and ‘‘how to learn’’. For each of these questions, we present learning heuristics that are supported by a comparative analysis of two case studies that addressed contemporary conservation issues in South Africa but varied in scale and duration. These were a five-year national-scale project focusing on the prioritisation of freshwater ecosystems for conservation and a three-year local-scale project that used ecological infrastructure as a theme for advancing sustainability dialogues. Regarding the proposed learning heuristics, ‘‘who to learn with’’ is scale dependent and needs to be informed by relevant disciplines and policy sectors with the aim of establishing a knowledge network representing empirical, pragmatic, normative and purposive functions. This emergent network should be enriched by involving relevant experts, novices and bridging agents, where possible. It is important for such networks to learn about the respective histories, system processes and drivers, values and knowledge that exist in the social–ecological system of interest. Moreover, learning together about key concepts and issues can help to develop a shared vocabulary, which in turn can contribute to a shared understanding, a common vision and an agreed way of responding to it. New ways of group learning can be promoted and enhanced by co-developing outputs (boundary objects) for application across knowledge domains and creating spaces (third places) that facilitate exchange of knowledge and knowledge co-production. We conclude with five generic lessons for transdisciplinary researchers to enhance project success: (a) the duration, timing and continuation potential of a project influences its prospects for achieving systemic and sustainable change; (b) bridging agents, especially if embedded within an implementing agency, play a critical role in facilitating transdisciplinary learning with enhanced outcomes; (c) researchers need to participate as co-learners rather than masters of knowledge domains; (d) purposeful mixedparadigm research designs could help to mend knowledge fragmentation within science; and (e) researchers must be vigilant for three pitfalls in mutual learning initiatives, Handled by Alexandros Gasparatos, IR3S, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan. & Dirk J. Roux dirk.roux@sanparks.org 1 Scientific Services, South African National Parks, Private Bag X6531, George 6530, South Africa 2 Sustainability Research Unit, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Private Bag X6531, George 6530, South Africa 3 Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Natural Resources and the Environment, P.O. Box 320, Stellenbosch 7599, South Africa 4 Department of Environmental Science, Rhodes University, P.O. Box 94, Grahamstown 6130, South Africa 5 International Development Research Centre, P.O. Box 8500, Ottawa K1G 3H9, Canada 6 Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa 123 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 DOI 10.1007/s11625-017-0446-0 namely biases in participant self-selection, perceived superiority of scientific knowledge and the attraction of simple solutions to wicked problems that retain the status quo. Keywords Bridging agent Boundary objects Engaged science Learning heuristics Transdisciplinary learning framework Introduction Science and technological innovation were spectacularly successful drivers of social and economic development during most of the twentieth century. These drivers have helped humans to achieve their current position of dominance on Earth, to the extent that the actions of people have become a threat to the planet’s biophysical support base (Barnosky et al. 2012; Rockstro¨m et al. 2009). As a result, there is a call on science to respond to one of the most pressing issues of our time, namely to understand the interdependent relationship between human well-being and diverse, functioning ecological systems, and to guide humanity towards a more sustainable relationship with nature (Lubchenco 1998). Furthermore, relevant knowledge should be produced in ways that help overcome the divide between science and practice (Van Kerkhoff and Lebel 2006; Cornell et al. 2013; Clark et al. 2016) to create a complementary interplay between scientific knowledge production and institutional innovation (Woodhill 2010). The above challenge is at least in part being met by the emergence and increasing prominence of a number of research and management approaches focussed on addressing complex social–ecological issues. Management approaches include adaptive management and adaptive comanagement (Armitage et al. 2008), while research approaches include post-normal science (Funtowicz and Ravetz 1993), sustainability science (Clark and Dickson 2003) and transdisciplinary research (Hirsch Hadorn et al. 2008). These approaches are not necessarily mutually exclusive; for example, transdisciplinarity has been identified as a key aspect of sustainability science (Komiyama and Takeuchi 2006; Kates 2011). Here, we largely draw upon, and build on, the concept of transdisciplinary research. The aim of transdisciplinary research is for actors from academia, policy and/or practice domains to co-evolve their understanding of a social–ecological issue, reconcile their diverse perspectives and co-produce appropriate knowledge to serve a common purpose (Hirsch Hadorn et al. 2010; Lang et al. 2012; Young et al. 2014). Such an engaged research approach can expose participants to multiple perspectives regarding the pressing issues in social–ecological systems, creating an enriched picture of such issues and potentially uncovering complementarities across diverse knowledge systems (Polk 2014; Tengo¨ et al. 2014). A requirement of transdisciplinary research is to enable mutual learning processes among researchers representing different disciplines as well as actors from outside academia (Russell et al. 2008; Stauffacher et al. 2008; Mobjo¨rk 2010). However, learning across diverse knowledge systems is challenging and often characterised by misunderstanding, power plays, disagreement and tension (Cook et al. 2013). For knowledge to disperse, it is necessary to make knowledge domains (and their boundaries) more permeable, while maintaining the functional integrity of the contributing knowledge system. Such ‘‘boundary work’’ (Guston 2001; Mollinga 2010; Van Kerkhoff and Lebel 2006) is enabled by bridging agents. These individuals can ‘‘make it happen’’ and have been variously named boundary spanners, intermediaries and institutional entrepreneurs. They have been linked to a variety of skills and competencies such as developing social networks and building trust, legitimacy and social capital (Harris and Lyon 2013; Westley et al. 2013). Bridging agents are skilled at social facilitation and can create specialised interfaces between external knowledge sources, research teams and various participating actors. They can also translate knowledge and facilitate bidirectional transfers across relevant knowledge boundaries. Facilitating transdisciplinary research to improve society’s capacity to learn about (and respond to) a changing world sounds like a noble purpose. However, with its concurrent grounding in practice and science, transdisciplinary research represents a significant departure from conventional research. Academics and practitioners alike tend to believe in the superiority of their knowledge, especially when supported by hard data or personal experience (Berbe´s-Bla´zquez et al. 2016), creating a significant obstacle to mutual learning. It may not be intuitive for unversed researchers to prepare themselves to participate in, or facilitate, the mutual learning processes that are part of transdisciplinary research. Creating such transdisciplinary environments for effective learning can be important in order to address the significant sustainability challenges in African contexts, but the need for capacity and resources to achieve this must be recognised (Reyers et al. 2010). In this paper, we explore the role that researchers can play as bridging agents in designing and maintaining systemic learning processes (spanning relevant actors of a particular social–ecological system) as part of their transdisciplinary endeavours. We use a novel transdisciplinary learning framework that draws from two case studies in South Africa to reflect on three questions that we consider 712 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 123 foundational to learning in transdisciplinary research: ‘‘who to learn with’’, ‘‘what to learn about’’ and ‘‘how to learn’’. We conclude by presenting generic insights for consideration in the design of similar research initiatives in other parts of Africa and beyond. Methodology Research approach This paper draws on two transdisciplinary research projects that addressed contemporary conservation issues in South Africa. The two projects are used as case studies to extract important insights for learning in transdisciplinary settings. They were chosen based on the authors’ direct involvement with them (i.e. two authors were involved with both projects and three authors with one of the projects each), their marked variation in scale and duration, well-documented project specifications and achievements to draw on, and their respective transdisciplinary research designs (see below). As transdisciplinary researchers we co-learned with other actors and at the same time influenced the evolution of the ‘‘group story’’ (Hampton, 2004), and thus the ways of relating to and understanding the relevant social–ecological systems and issues (Paschen and Ison 2014) in the respective case studies. As bridging agents we were also compelled to learn about project design criteria that could influence learning proficiency and equitable participation. We asked three questions to reflect on our learning through these transdisciplinary experiences: who to learn with, what to learn about and how to learn? Based on our observations and experiences in the two projects, a number of answers (or rather learning heuristics) emerged for each of the questions. These heuristics were refined through ongoing reflections that happened informally and opportunistically during the course of (as well as subsequent to) the respective projects, spanning a period of 10 years. Early heuristics helped to inform the design of the second case study, and in this way, heuristics and design modifications emerged through iterative refinement. For this paper, we select two heuristics for each question based on their perceived robustness for each case study project, relative novel contributions to the transdisciplinary literature, and potential for generic application. The selected heuristics are not mutually exclusive (as can be expected from complex learning processes) nor are they intended to be all inclusive. Rather they serve as ‘‘rules of thumb’’ or a starting point to support transdisciplinary learning. The questions and selected heuristics are presented as a framework for transdisciplinary learning (Fig. 1). We then used the framework to inform a comparative analysis of the case studies. The resulting insights are grounded in theories and concepts from a broad spectrum of research fields, including stakeholder engagement, social learning and knowledge coproduction. Case studies National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Area (NFEPA) project Systematic conservation planning provides a widely accepted approach for identifying and prioritising ecosystems for protection (Kukkala and Moilanen 2013; Margules and Pressey 2000). The systematic approach to conservation planning focuses on conserving a representative suite of biodiversity, often driven by quantitative targets (Carwardine et al. 2009). Such targets can, for example, be to effectively conserve 17% of Earth’s terrestrial and inland water ecosystems by 2020, as specified by the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Targets (CBD 2011). While 30 years of refinement has made systematic conservation planning a sophisticated tool, effective implementation of the resulting conservation plans remains a challenge (Knight et al. 2008). Implementation of conservation plans could benefit from a number of institutional enablers, including political endorsement of conservation targets, a conducive policy environment and mandated agencies with awareness, sense of ownership and appropriate capacity to achieve conservation outcomes (Roux and Nel 2013). In addition to the technical approach of identifying priority areas for biodiversity conservation, an implementation orientation requires enhancing the ‘‘absorptive capacity’’ (i.e. ability to identify, assimilate, transform and apply valuable external information) of knowledge implementers (Cohen and Levinthal 1990). This was explicitly attempted during the design of a freshwater conservation plan for South Africa (Murray et al. 2011). The multi-year (2006–2011) NFEPA initiative had dual aims to: (1) identify spatial conservation priorities (referred to as Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas or FEPAs) in a scientifically credible manner and (2) develop an institutional basis for the effective conservation and management of these FEPAs (Roux and Nel 2013). Unlike earlier freshwater conservation plans for South Africa, the national-scale NFEPA initiative achieved significant traction with intended users (Roux and Nel 2013). In the relatively short time since their publication in 2011 (Driver et al. 2011; Nel et al. 2011a), the FEPA products have enjoyed remarkable uptake in policy and management tools for freshwater ecosystems (Nel et al. 2016). This has contributed to a systemic and notable change in the Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 713 123 discourse on the management and protection of freshwater ecosystems. The NFEPA initiative has played out, partly by design and partly by serendipity, as a transdisciplinary research process (Audouin et al. 2013; Cundill et al. 2015; Funke and Nienaber 2012; Nel et al. 2016). The project team consisted of members from various national agencies including end-users of the ultimate products (Table 1). Team members fulfilled the role of bridging agents and facilitated mutual learning across multiple institutional boundaries spanning national and provincial government as well as water, conservation and land-use planning sectors (Nel et al. 2016). Wilderness ecological infrastructure project Ecological infrastructure refers to functioning ecosystems that deliver valuable services to people. Examples of ecological infrastructure include strips of riparian vegetation that filter pollutants from water (Kemper 2001), wetlands that slow down flood waters (Kemper 2001), or coastal and estuarine ecosystems such as salt marshes and foredunes that can contribute to erosion control or absorb the impacts of sea storms (Barbier et al. 2011). When neglected or eroded by human activity, ecological infrastructure declines slowly and unnoticeably until a surprise event such as a flood, coastal surge, fire or drought occurs, which makes the decline instantaneously relevant, due to the associated debilitating economic, social and political impacts (Dobson et al. 2006; MA 2005). In South Africa, ecological infrastructure has been introduced into the development and policy domains as a term for engaging with infrastructure development, where it is framed as the nature-based equivalent of built infrastructure (Driver et al. 2012). Typically, the benefits/contributions of ecological infrastructure are not easy to quantify. Furthermore, they are not well studied and therefore somewhat obscure in the minds of decision-makers (Reyers et al. 2015). Yet, its relation to other forms of infrastructure (such as built infrastructure) may make the concept of ecological infrastructure sufficiently compatible with existing knowledge at local levels of governance to aid its adoption. The 3-year Wilderness project aimed to use ecological infrastructure as a theme for exploring how decisionmakers and landscape managers understood and responded to new scientific understanding, environmental change and sustainability challenges (Table 1). The project focussed on a small drainage basin along the south coast of South Africa (Wilderness River Basin), which contain wideranging land uses including a dairy farming community, Ramsar wetlands, a coastal village and parts of a national park (O’Farrell et al. 2015). Because the Wilderness project aimed to promote social–ecological transformation towards a more sustainable future in the Wilderness River Basin, it was designed with a transdisciplinary research process in mind. The project team consisted of researchers from a national research council and a university and relied heavily on the contributions of postgraduate students. Fig. 1 Summary of the transdisciplinary learning framework that emerged from the case studies and was used for their comparative analysis. The various learning heuristics can be used as principles to strive for in the design and execution of transdisciplinary research initiatives 714 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 123 Table 1 Characteristics of the two case studies NFEPA project Wilderness project Duration 5 years (2006–2011); relationships had already been built with several relevant agencies through basin-scale projects that preceded NFEPA 3 years (2012–2015) Scale National (South Africa) Local—relatively small drainage basin (Wilderness Lakes and Touw River) Funding mechanism Consortium of funders: WRC, CSIR, SANBI, WWF, DWS. SANParks, DEA and SAIAB contributed in kind (salaries). Project coordinated through WRC mechanisms and steered through both advisory and technical Reference Group meetings at major project milestones. WRC, based on annual call for funding of unsolicited research proposals. Steered through annual meetings of a Reference Group (constituted by the funder) against pre-defined and pre-scheduled deliverables (although the funder was open to negotiating mid-course adaptations) % of budget allocated for transdisciplinary engagement 60 47 Main actors involved Researchers (CSIR, SAIAB and universities) Water resource managers (national and provincial government departments) Conservation agencies (national and provincial) Environmental consultants Researchers (CSIR, NMMU) Commercial resource users (dairy farmers and foresters) Recreational users (conservancy) Subsistence users (local community) Civil society (ratepayers and residents association) Service delivery (municipality and conservation agency) Bridging agents Fairly senior project team with established networks and social capital in both the water and conservation communities, including members from national government departments and conservation agencies University staff on the project team including senior professor and students residing in the study area (i.e. ‘‘community-embedded’’ researchers) Forums for transdisciplinary engagement (mutual learning) Five sub-national workshops (3 days each) in regional city centres Three basin-level pilot studies (chosen on representation and user readiness) Biodiversity Planning Forum (conservation planning community of practice) Freshwater Ecosystem Network (community of practice to connect managers in the water and the environmental sector) One national workshop Training workshops in three regional centres Local community forums Focus group meetings Dialogues Local media Main products Atlas of FEPAs (Nel et al. 2011a) Implementation manual (Driver et al. 2011) Technical report describing science (Nel et al. 2011b) Data and information portal (http://bgis.sanbi.org/ Projects/Detail/48) Papers and presentations (e.g. Nel et al. 2016; Roux and Nel 2013) Project report (O’Farrell et al. 2015) Newspaper and popular science articles Student dissertations (Buckle 2016; Crisp 2015; Mc Culloch 2016; Roos 2015) Desired outcomes A new narrative in regulatory agencies Management impact Policy impact New knowledge network New narrative in the Wilderness community New practices CSIR Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, DEA Department of Environmental Affairs (previously DEAT Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism), DWS Department of Water and Sanitation (previously DWAF Department of Water Affairs and Tourism), NMMU Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, SANBI South African National Biodiversity Institute, SAIAB South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, SANParks South African National Parks, WRC Water Research Commission, WWF Worldwide Fund for Nature Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 715 123 Results and discussion Who to learn with? Deciding which actors are eligible and essential for participation in a particular transdisciplinary learning process (as well as involving them in such a process) can be daunting. Important considerations include breadth of invitation, timing, extent and duration of involvement, techniques used to involve the different actors, and equitability, including a consideration of the imperative to empower marginal groups (Armitage et al. 2008; Kru¨tli et al. 2010; Mobjo¨rk 2010). Here, we focus on two actorselection heuristics to facilitate long-term and systemic learning and avoid selection bias. Actors from across the transdisciplinary knowledge network Jantsch (1972) classified university knowledge into a fourlevel hierarchy. Max-Neef (2005) depicted these levels as a transdisciplinary hierarchy of knowledge (Fig. 2a). Empirical disciplines at the base of the pyramid describe knowledge that exists, disciplines at the pragmatic level describe what can be done, disciplines at the normative level describe what is desired and disciplines at the purposive level reflects socially embedded values that define what should be done (see Fig. 2a). We used these levels, and also mobilised non-academic knowledge, to identify relevant actors for the NFEPA (Fig. 2b) and Wilderness (Fig. 2c) projects, respectively. Transdisciplinary learning would then strive to connect individuals vertically and horizontally across these levels and disciplines into a learning network (Reyers et al. 2010). Funke and Nienaber (2012) state that the NFEPA project represented a significant departure from ‘‘business as usual’’ research because the project team ‘‘consistently grappled with issues of transdisciplinarity’’. These authors highlight the diversity of experts who were involved in producing the research as well as the manner in which perceived research end-users participated throughout the research process—from problem framing to completion. Co-learners included actors that had (a) empirical-level expertise in political science, social ecology, aquatic ecology, conservation biology, ichthyology, environmental chemistry and geographic information systems (from research organisations as well as embedded in national and provincial government agencies and departments); (b) pragmatic-level expertise in environmental management, systematic conservation planning and water resource management (national and provincial government departments as well as consultants); and (c) normative-level expertise in planning and policy across environment and water sectors (national and provincial government departments) (Fig. 2b). At the purposive level, the values underpinning the study were rooted in cross-sector policy objectives (Roux et al. 2006) which, in turn, were strongly influenced by legislation from particularly the water and biodiversity sectors. Importantly, the participatory process used to derive cross-sector policy objectives for freshwater conservation (Roux et al. 2008) helped to build inter-organisational relationships even before the inception of the NFEPA project (Audouin et al. 2013). Indeed, many of these organisations became funders and co-designers of the NFEPA project (Nel et al. 2016). This multiple institutional ownership of the NFEPA project undoubtedly served as a catalyst for the widespread dissemination and uptake of the project outputs. In the Wilderness project, members of the project team represent various empirical-level disciplines from across the natural and social sciences, including conservation biology, systems ecology, aquatic ecology, communication and social–ecological resilience (Fig. 2c). At the pragmatic level, the team engaged agriculture (mainly dairy farmers) and civil society (e.g. Seven Passes Initiative, Touw River Conservancy, Wilderness Ratepayers and Residents Association). At the normative level, co-learning occurred with decision-makers from government entities (SANParks and Eden District Municipality) as well as the project steering committee. The purposive level included the Water Research Commission (directing the scope of research) as well as sustainability principles from national policy documents and scientific literature (O’Farrell et al. 2015). Max-Neef’s hierarchy of knowledge (Fig. 2a) was a useful guide for mapping out the expertise and functions required to achieve the aims of each case study. It helped to consider the systematic representation across the transdisciplinary hierarchy, both vertically and horizontally (see Fig. 2b, c). However, we found it more useful to view the two-dimensional hierarchy as a knowledge network that is inextricably linked to (and dynamically shaped by) the development of relationships among diverse actors. In instances where actor linkages are not well developed or understood, an explicit focus on ‘‘network weaving’’ may be helpful. This involves social network mapping and analysis to help strategically identify non-communicating stakeholders with whom mutually beneficial links could be established (Vance-Borland and Holley 2011). Ultimately, the two-dimensional hierarchy depicted in Fig. 2a will only deliver on transdisciplinary learning and systemic change if populated by actors with appropriate agency, i.e. those who have the capacity to participate in the learning process, relay messages over space and time and act on new knowledge within their mandates. Establishing linkages takes time and is often mediated by 716 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 123 serendipity. For example, in the Wilderness project a discussion with an official at a school sport event helped to overcome an impasse in setting up a formal meeting. The reality is that in an emerging democracy such as South Africa, stakeholder capacities are uneven, which is one of the root causes of inequity. To promote more equitable participation remains a challenge, which we strived to overcome through a number of strategies. These included to (a) comprehensively analyse social networks in advance, especially in the Wilderness project (Roos 2015), (b) use community workers and community-based organisations as intermediaries to link the research team with historically neglected stakeholders, (c) advertise knowledge-sharing events in unusual places such as the local post office and schools, (d) use accessible bridging objects such as simple maps and participatory mapping exercises (see section on boundary objects below) to level the playing field and (e) organise knowledge-sharing events at or close to participants’ places of work and residence (see section on third places), to enter their comfort zones instead of inviting them into ours. Experts, novices and bridging agents A balance of seasoned professionals and novices can facilitate mentoring, succession and a constructive and complementary tension between more established and more open mindsets (Bransford et al. 2003). Following Bransford et al. (2003), we use ‘‘experts’’ to refer to experienced professionals who have acquired extensive knowledge that enhances their ability to interpret information, reason and solve problems. The competence credibility of these individuals lends trustworthiness to the projects in which they are involved, and in most cases, they Fig. 2 Hierarchies of knowledge based on the literature (a) and applied for the two case studies (b, c). A hierarchy of knowledge based on Jantsch (1972), Max-Neef (2005) and Reyers et al. (2010) (a) was used to map relevant transdisciplinary actors for the NFEPA (b) and Wilderness (c) projects, respectively. In b and c, the grey shading indicates the knowledge domain of the project team members, some of whom also acted as bridging agents. Boxes with solid outlines indicate actor groups that were successfully engaged and boxes with dotted outlines indicate actor groups that were deemed important to the respective studies but who were not successfully engaged within the duration of these projects. Connecting lines are used to indicate the actors between whom mutual learning occurred Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 717 123 are sought-after mentors or supervisors for less experienced workers. Novices on the other hand are eager to learn new things and do not have the restrictions of overly conditioned ‘‘habits of understanding’’ (sensu Ison (2010)), deeply entrenched beliefs or overburdened work schedules. They might be in a position to ‘‘see’’ new opportunities or solutions and to adopt ‘‘new ways of doing’’ in the workplace. At least some of the experts and novices should also be bridging agents, in this context referring to people skilled at connecting key individuals from different knowledge domains across the transdisciplinary knowledge network (Fig. 2). The NFEPA project team included experts, novices and bridging agents, spanning key national government departments, agencies and research facilities. However, relatively few experts and bridging agents came from provincial government departments. While the NFEPA project gave considerable attention to developing end-user readiness for its products (e.g. through facilitating participatory case studies within selected provinces), none of the nine provinces in South Africa had the full suite of aquatic and conservation expertise (Driver et al. 2011) to enable them to effectively discharge their mandates regarding freshwater conservation and management. Those provinces with relevant capacity (see Impson 2016) were markedly more active in the NFEPA engagement processes, which generally translated into stronger adoption of project outputs. Some provinces lacked the basic freshwater and conservation expertise required to effectively ‘‘absorb’’ the new information (Impson 2016). While we would suggest that transdisciplinary learning provides a platform for increasing the ‘‘absorptive capacity’’ (see Murray et al. 2011) of participants, there seems to be a minimum threshold of prior knowledge that enables participation in the first place and over which the transdisciplinary project has limited control. In the Wilderness project, the research team consisted of a number of established scientists (experts) as well as MSc/ MA/MTech- and PhD-level students (novices). Some of the team members were also natural bridging agents, and the project drew extensively on existing relationships between researchers and actors from across the transdisciplinary knowledge network (Fig. 2c). However, the same presence of experts and novices was not achieved within all stakeholder groups. For example, the dairy farmers and officials from the District Municipality appeared to be mostly established career experts, while the lack of novices in these groups might challenge their future institutional memory regarding lessons learned from this project. The Seven Passes Initiative, on the other hand, was represented mostly by young people from the Touwsranten community, and we had to actively recruit senior community members with historical knowledge. Engagement dynamics were further enhanced by natural networkers or ‘‘connectors’’ (sensu Gladwell 2000) both in the farming community and civic society groups. However, the project team was unable to find and engage such individuals within government, which no doubt hampered uptake of the project outcomes in these agencies. So while one may have an idea of who to learn with, finding these people can prove impossibly difficult and potentially impact the outcomes of transdisciplinary research. What to learn about? Individual learning proficiency is highest when learning about things that the individual already knows a lot about (Bransford et al. 2003). Furthermore, it is convenient to learn about these things with and from others who share the same language, belief, education and socio-economic status, because such similarities support effective communication (Rogers 1995). These two learning principles help to reinforce disciplinary focus and knowledge fragmentation in science. An important point of departure in transdisciplinary learning is to learn about things that will help to overcome perceived differentness (among the spectrum of actors/colearners that have been identified in the previous section) and work towards shared interest. Below we present two such learning themes. Each other’s histories, values and existing knowledge People’s perceptions of and responses to social–ecological change are likely to be context specific and grounded in place-based histories, social networks, cultural norms and institutional structures, and involve a variety of actors at all levels of society (Paschen and Ison 2014). To foster a better appreciation of the diverse perspectives that exist across a transdisciplinary knowledge network, actors should also learn about the perspectives of fellow actors in their social– ecological system. A starting point is to learn about each other’s histories, existing knowledge and realities. In the NFEPA project, actors from across the transdisciplinary network mostly had similar levels of education (tertiary) but displayed differences in work cultures (e.g. science, management, policy functions). From project inception, an effort was made to understand relevant policy contexts and to be reflective of the key policy issues (e.g. that NFEPA products should align with existing legislation and avoid spatial congruence with areas prioritised for economic development). Similarly, the project enabled interaction with conservation practitioners and the team endeavoured to understand their implementation realities, e.g. regarding resource limitations. The sociopolitical 718 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 123 history of South Africa featured in many discussions and the need to balance conservation aspirations with socioeconomic priorities was acknowledged. The Wilderness project was characterised by substantial dissimilarity among actors in terms of both education and work cultures. Dairy farmers, scientists, local government officials, residents of low-cost settlements and subsistence fishers are not naturally ‘‘members of the same flock’’. In this project, the research team made a dedicated effort to listen first (especially during the first year of the project) and to offer their perspectives only when asked. Initially, the dairy farmers did not see enough relevance in the project to commit their time. Through attending some of their meetings as observers (e.g. around a farmer’s kitchen table over coffee), the interest and commitment of the farmers grew to the point of becoming a key participant group by the end of the project. The fact that staff and students from the local university were part of the project team contributed to trust building. Some of the MSc/MA/MTech students integrated narrative enquiry in their research approach (e.g. Roos 2015; Buckle 2016; Mc Culloch 2016). These student researchers and other actors became co-learners, as opposed to investigators and subjects, participating in a mutual process of reflection and sense making. One MSc thesis focussed on synthesising historical events that played a significant role in shaping the social–ecological system of the Wilderness Basin (Roos 2015). Various stakeholders were surprised to learn how these events affected fellow stakeholders, and that they were all linked to some degree as inhabitants of the same basin. A general characteristic of both case studies was that scientists respectfully and empathetically listened to their transdisciplinary learning partners. Such listening helped to remove social distance and build trust among participants. Learning about each other also provided a deep understanding of the receiving environment for the project outputs. This helped to translate the new transdisciplinary insights into relevant and useful products. However, some of the actor groups, including publicsector departments and agencies, were ill-prepared to collaborate and learn with other actors. Reasons may include (a) prejudices (not able to ‘‘hear’’ views contrary to established beliefs), (b) capacity limitations (more specifically depth and breadth of project-related knowledge) and (c) inability to navigate power inequalities among actors. In such situations, which are particularly prevalent in developing countries, mutual learning and knowledge coproduction processes are likely to be slower than what researchers or funders desire (Reyers et al. 2010). However, in our experience, learning about each other’s worlds and realities contributed significantly to relationship building and subsequent willingness to engage in mutual learning on the theme of the particular project. Concepts that promote mutual understanding, and an aspirational common future Concepts represent generalisations or abstractions of how things work. In transdisciplinary research, shared concepts can help to steer mutual learning and foster common understanding. Acknowledging that people construct new understanding based on what they already know and believe (Bransford et al. 2003), the same concept may lead to different interpretations by different transdisciplinary actors. This diversity of perspectives contributes to a rich knowledge base from which a desired common future can be jointly articulated. In the NFEPA project, scientists summarised consensus, uncertainties and disagreements from the literature on systematic conservation planning and freshwater ecology. These were presented to policy officials and resource managers in a form that was relevant to their respective policy contexts and work mandates (see Roux et al. 2008). Through the resulting science–policy–management dialogue, concepts such as conservation targets, biodiversity representation, planning for efficiency and free-flowing rivers became part of the NFEPA narrative. These concepts facilitated sense making and exploration of mutual understanding. New terms such as ‘‘Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas (FEPAs’’) and ‘‘implementation-driven planning’’ emerged from the transdisciplinary learning process and helped to establish a sense of broad ownership through shared vocabulary. The project was directed by a national goal, namely ‘‘to conserve a sample of the full variety or diversity of inland water ecosystems that occur in South Africa… for present and future generations’’. This goal was itself the outcome of deliberations with policy officials across various sectors. It was widely ‘‘owned’’ and collectively disaggregated into five subordinate policy objectives and several implementation principles and recommendations (Roux et al. 2006), including a quantitative target of conserving 20% of all freshwater ecosystem types. The latter became influential and served as an aspirational vision for guiding the spatial delineation of FEPAs. The Wilderness project team used various engagements (e.g. sustainability dialogues) as opportunities to introduce selected concepts to stakeholders. These concepts included ecological infrastructure, ecosystem services, Anthropocene, co-management, stewardship and water quality. Learning about ecological infrastructure and ecosystem services helped a local government department to reconceptualise the links between their environmental management mandate and societal benefits. Dairy farmers could relate to the risk that toxic cyanobacteria pose to their cows Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 719 123 and hence the dangers associated with nutrient enrichment of farm dams. It was also rewarding to learn that, following one of the dialogues, a farmer had sourced further reading on the tragedy of the commons and that the concept has helped him to better understand social–ecological challenges in the area. During the third year of the project, actors from the Wilderness project identified the need for a common vision, articulating it as: ‘‘A healthy river system and healthy community through collective effort, beyond our own back yards’’ (O’Farrell et al. 2015). In both case studies, we found that most of the identified actors were open to (and interested in) learning about new concepts from science, especially those concepts that were also of direct relevance to their worlds. We found the skilful introduction of shared [scientific] concepts of interest to be an important catalyst for transdisciplinary learning. How to learn [together]? ‘‘How to learn’’ relates to designing interventions to ensure true co-learning and empowering actors to participate equally in the knowledge production process (Mobjo¨rk 2010). We found that knowledge co-production was a useful yardstick to aim for, defined by Armitage et al. (2011) as ‘‘the collaborative process of bringing a plurality of knowledge sources and types together to address a defined problem and build an integrated or systems-oriented understanding of that problem’’. Below we present two ways for facilitating learning that promoted knowledge co-production in our case studies, namely the use of boundary objects and third places. Embrace boundary objects Several academic communities recognise the importance of boundary objects but view and use the concept differently (Star and Griesemer 1989). Examples of boundary objects include models (White et al. 2010), indicators (Turnhout et al. 2007) and maps (Nel et al. 2016). Co-production of these objects can establish shared interest and at least overlapping understanding across multiple knowledge domains. Star and Griesemer (1989; page 393) suggest that boundary objects are useful ‘‘in developing and maintaining coherence across intersecting social worlds’’. In the NFEPA project, a national and several sub-national maps of FEPAs served as tangible tools and shared boundary objects to promote multi-agency cooperation in conserving freshwater biodiversity. These maps were collectively envisioned during the project’s initiation phase and were co-produced by diverse stakeholders through a series of interactive workshops. During these workshops, more than 450 individuals representing [1000 years of collective experience contributed knowledge to help design, revise and improve the maps (Fig. 3a, b) (Nel et al. 2016). This resulted in the broad ownership and utility of the FEPAs, which have found application in both national policy and decision-making processes, as well as local management in the water and biodiversity sectors (Nel et al. 2016). Examples of uptake include a national water resource strategy (DWS 2013), a national biodiversity assessment (Driver et al. 2012), water catchment management strategy and plans (Inkomati 2013) and a management plan for a national park (Roux et al. 2016). In the Wilderness project, maps depicting built and ecological infrastructure were used as boundary objects. Stakeholders were asked to partake in participatory mapping exercises (similar to focus group meetings, see Chambers 2006), typically with 4–5 individuals from a single actor group at one time. A list of prompts was used to guide the conversation and participants indicated their ‘‘answers’’ on the printed map using various colour pens to differentiate between ecological infrastructure, built infrastructure, and threats to those infrastructures, among other issues. Create ‘‘third places’’ A certain public space (also referred to as the agora) is required for scientists and practitioners to meet, share experiences and learn together (Nowotny et al. 2001; Pohl et al. 2010; Polk 2014). For both projects, we were inspired by a related concept that is relatively new to the transdisciplinary literature, namely Ray Oldenburg’s ‘‘third place’’. A third place refers to a social environment, other than home or the workplace, that provides a neutral ground for engagement, conversation and community building, and for establishing feelings of a sense of place (Oldenburg 1989). In a transdisciplinary sense, a third place represents a learning space at the interface between academia and practice, where academics and non-academics can have an equal voice when they engage to find common ground regarding particular social–ecological issues. In creating third places, there are some physical considerations. For example, using accessible yet attractive locations, and seating arrangements that encourages interaction. There are also non-physical design features such as creating a space where disciplinary boundaries become less clear and less intrinsically acceptable (e.g. through the careful use of language). Conversation or dialogue is the main activity taking place at third places. During the dialogue, it is likely, and perhaps desirable, that a third position will emerge, which is not an academic, traditional, management or policy position, but rather acknowledges and reflects the values and beliefs of all the relevant actors. It might not be 720 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 123 possible for any one actor group to imagine this third position without the rich interaction of all the positions during iterative issue framing, knowledge production and knowledge application. We propose that transdisciplinary work does not start once the third position emerges. Rather, the third position is a product of transdisciplinary engagement. The interactive workshops that characterised the NFEPA project were commonly held at a meeting facility in a botanical garden. The relatively neutral setting contributed to free and equal communication among policy officials, conservation practitioners, scientists and resource planners. These workshops were characterised by participants being fully engaged around a table covered with maps rather than sitting in a hall listening to presentations (Fig. 3a). The most notable third places that were created during the Wilderness project were in the form of ‘‘sustainability dialogues’’ following the World Cafe´ method (Oelofse and Cady 2012). This method facilitates group learning through multiple mini-dialogues that encourage participant interaction around questions formulated in a way to stimulate reflection and access the collective intelligence of the group as a source for innovative thinking (Brown and Isaacs 2008). Dialogues were held on the local university campus and in the hall of a local primary school (Fig. 3d). Care was taken to create a welcoming and open ambiance and to facilitate inclusive participation. For example, seating arrangements and refreshments mimicked a coffee shop rather than a lecture hall. Technical information was translated and shared in common English and Afrikaans (the local vernacular), often using metaphors, such as comparing a catchment to the human body when explaining its complex connections. Convenience, accessibility and neutrality were important considerations in selecting the venues and timing for dialogues. For example, several dairy farmers attended the dialogue in the school hall after dropping their children for school. The children helped arrange tables and chairs before school and farmers felt comfortable to attend with their work clothes. From the feedback of participants, these events were learning highlights. Fig. 3 Use of boundary objects and a third places in the two projects. Maps used as boundary objects in the NFEPA project served to facilitate stakeholder engagement (a) and evolved into spatially explicit conservation plans (b). In the Wilderness project, various actor groups could relate to ecological as well as built infrastructures on maps of their local areas (c), and the village school hall was a good third place for dialogues (d) Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 721 123 Lessons for transdisciplinary researchers In both our case studies, explicit efforts were made to involve actors from across the transdisciplinary knowledge network (Fig. 2). Retrospectively, we emphasise the value of a representative spread of experts and novices throughout the network including some skilful bridging agents. This was fulfilled by the respective project teams, who instilled an ethos of listening to (and learning about) transdisciplinary learning partners, to the point where there was sufficient social cohesion among actors to jointly formulate a common vision. Complementary learning about concepts of shared interest (e.g. conservation planning and stewardship of ecological infrastructure) helped to inform the vision. Boundary objects and third places were helpful mechanisms for facilitating transdisciplinary learning. Yet, when assessed against the systemic change achieved, the outcomes of the two case studies were different. The NFEPA project demonstrates how transdisciplinary learning and the associated emergence of coproduced and practice-based knowledge can fundamentally shift an institutional group story (in this case related to the conservation of freshwater ecosystems), with the NFEPA concepts and vocabulary now seemingly well entrenched in relevant policy, management plans and environmental practices (Nel et al. 2016). In the Wilderness project, enthusiastic participation and signs of an evolving group story did not translate into a systemic shift in institutional arrangements. The project team was not successful in securing a follow-on project, and the gains made during the Wilderness project seem vulnerable to regression. While we acknowledge that findings from case studies in social–ecological systems cannot be easily generalised due to the uniqueness of the setting, some insights from our case study experiences could act as lessons to other transdisciplinary researchers. Through applying the learning framework to our case studies, and reflecting on their different outcomes, we have distilled five generic lessons for transdisciplinary researchers. First, the duration, timing and continuation potential of a project influences its prospects for achieving systemic and sustainable change through transdisciplinary learning. At least six years of co-learning in the relevant science, policy and practice domains preceded the NFEPA project. A further five years of knowledge co-production served to consolidate and entrench the new knowledge. On the other hand, the Wilderness project was a newly initiated project. Although it served to establish conditions suitable to foster transdisciplinary learning, three years were insufficient to anchor the new knowledge systemically in this social– ecological system. This highlights a challenge for individual research projects and postgraduate studies that are framed as transdisciplinary research. Conventional funding arrangements and postgraduate studies offer limited opportunities for problem co-framing and knowledge coproduction with transdisciplinary actors (Esler et al. 2016), and limited scope for mid-course adaptations based on context-specific factors. It might be more realistic to conceive transdisciplinary research as a programme consisting of a number of complementary research projects that converge towards a common, but dynamic, goal (Roux et al. 2010). Second, bridging agents play a critical role in the social facilitation required for transdisciplinary learning. They migrate horizontally and vertically across the transdisciplinary knowledge network to connect different functions and domains, act as conduits for knowledge flows and reduce knowledge fragmentation. Our findings also indicate that the role of bridging agent should be embedded within an institution that has a primary interest in implementing the envisaged change. While excellent bridging agents may exist in academic institutions (e.g. universities, science councils), these institutions are not ideally placed for the long-term role of a bridging agent. During the NFEPA project, staff from the national biodiversity institute (SANBI) played a strong bridging role between national and provincial spheres of government, water and biodiversity policy sectors, and science and policy functions. SANBI could maintain its own NFEPA drive after the project concluded. At the same time, it is an influential policy institute that has been instrumental in entrenching NFEPA principles in various national policy developments. In the Wilderness project, the staff and students of the local university were successful bridging agents in that they were perceived as neutral and with a genuine interest in local issues. While they manage to facilitate dialogue among transdisciplinary actors, a lack of an institutionalised bridging agent hindered post-project sustainability. Some of the actors are now asking when the next meeting will take place, and without a related project this leaves the university bridging agent in a somewhat embarrassing position. Third, transdisciplinary learning holds the potential to put researchers, decision-makers and other knowledge users on equal footing. It challenges the notion of a researcher as the ‘‘expert’’ who ‘‘produces’’ knowledge that is ‘‘transferred’’ to users (Rogers 2006). Transdisciplinary researcher will need to expand their scope from being skilled at mastering a knowledge domain to also being skilled at participating in open learning systems and from participating in knowledge co-production to also being involved with its translation to action (Cornell et al. 2013). Fourth, transdisciplinary learning that is underpinned by mixed-paradigm research could help mend knowledge fragmentation within science. Our main focus in this paper 722 Sustain Sci (2017) 12:711–726 123 was on learning across science–stakeholder knowledge domains. However, learning across academia’s natural and social science cultures is also relevant. In the Wilderness project, postgraduate theses used narrative, empirical and action research designs (Buckle 2016; Crisp 2015; Mc Culloch 2016; Roos 2015). Complementarity, and indeed synergy, of results was facilitated by an overall project aim and regular dialogues. Students (and supervisors) from across social and biophysical subject areas interacted with remarkable ease and were generally appreciative of the broad exposure. We believe that a transdisciplinary approach with purposeful mixed-paradigm design could contribute to opening up new synergies between traditional divides of qualitative and quantitative research as well as inductive and deductive reasoning in science. Fifth, transdisciplinary researchers must constantly guard against three wicked pitfalls in mutual learning initiatives. The first is biases in participant self-selection as educated and wealthy participants have easier access to information, respond and interact faster, and nominate themselves more readily than those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The second is the perceived superiority of scientific knowledge and empirical (‘‘hard’’) data that is common among many types of stakeholders. Participants with experiential and informal knowledge struggle to legitimise their ‘‘data’’ and may withhold such information for fear of being ridiculed or looked down upon. The third is the ‘‘fatal attraction’’ of simple solutions to wicked problems. Participants who confidently propose (or impose) simple solutions gain traction and appeal. However, such solutions may often favour the status quo instead of innovation. We believe that our approach to mutual learning, while not being a silver bullet to the wicked problem of collaborative ecosystem management, can help guard against such pitfalls. Conclusions The global science community is more connected and learning faster than ever before. Governments and society in general are overwhelmed with rapid changes and frequent surprises and increasingly operate in a reactive mode. It is inherently challenging to maintain two-way knowledge flows between these two domains. Transdisciplinary research is an approach tailored to address this challenge. Although transdisciplinary research has a relatively long history of academic discourse, agreement on standards for its practice is still lacking. The development of such standards will depend on publishing insights that emerge from across diverse transdisciplinary research settings. Attention should also be given to the social processes (such as mutual learning) that form an inevitable part of transdisciplinary research. However, social processes introduce.
 
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Stoicism0

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This incomprehensible post is pure troll.

Some random rambling from some book somewhere. Like a schizophrenic professor from a University.
 
Dragon5000

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This incomprehensible post is pure troll.

Some random rambling from some book somewhere. Like a schizophrenic professor from a University.
I guess I am going to have to make an even simpler guide if you did not understand it.
 
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I have mastered learning, now i look like this

1656545244267
 
GypsyEyes

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OP please a release a guide on how to learn learning learning
 
SeiGun

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its easy to learn, problem is im getting bored and lazy, low motivation
 
Stopping@Nothing19

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meditation and consideration is the key to learning
 
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the worst formatting i have ever seen
 

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