Dr. Hemant Ojha, IFSD Principal Advisor and also the Adjunct Associate Professor of gave a talk on “Co-producing deliberative space: Reflections from city level water forum initiatives in India and Nepal”.

His talk is based on the past 6 years of action research in India and Nepal in partnership with the Centre for Ecology, Development, and Research (CEDAR) in India and the Southasia Institute of Advanced Studies (SIAS) in Nepal, funded by Canadian IDRC and UK Research Funds.

The zoom video stream can be accessed here 

An academic version of his abstract is as follows:

Abstract: 

There is now an increasing level of endorsement of the deliberative approach to governance, bolstered by evidence of benefits in legitimacy, inclusion, social learning, and even the quality of governance outcomes. In the Global South, however, entrenched power asymmetries and political cultures that tend to ignore, if not actively suppress, the practice of deliberation in political decision making continue to challenge efforts to improve deliberation in governance. In this paper, he reflects on some recent and ongoing action research initiatives supporting urban water forums in four cities in India and Nepal. A locally engaged research team partnered with academic research groups from Europe and Australia to design and test urban water forums as an experiment to expand deliberative space on issues related to water management, access, and resilience to climate change. The forums were co-organized by local research groups and city-level governments, inviting representatives of all major social groups that have an interest in or are concerned with the problems of water in the city.  

 

Over a period of five years, these experiments show that locally engaged research practice can stimulate open dialogues, self-reflection (especially among the powerful groups), system-wide collective thinking, and an appreciation of the longer-term environmental risks in city-level planning and decision making. However, seeing through the lens of co-production, these gains in deliberation that emerged in the context of transnational research partnership are less likely to affect new modes of co-production in governance, without larger, deeper, and system-wide processes of change and transformation.  This experience suggests that small-scale innovations in deliberation can meet the co-production limit but can still show directionality and confidence in larger and deeper changes in the system.

 He summarised his findings and reflections around the folioing questions: 

  • Did locally engaged research expand/deepen deliberation?
  • Did improved deliberation lead to improved practices of co-production?
  • Local-level governance and policy-practice – opportunities to expand deliberation?
  • What are the key frontiers in the deliberation-coproduction interface?
  • Locally engaged / interactive / critical action research?

For more information about Dr. Ojha’s talks, you can email us at info@ifsd.com.au