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Workshop 1.7

Collaborative learning to solve problems and develop innovations in complex systems: focus on methodologies


Brigitte Kaufmann and Christian Hülsebusch, German Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture (DITSL)
Anja Christinck, seed4change – (Research & Communication Consultancy)

If you have any questions regarding this workshop, please turn directly to the convenors by sending an email.


The aim of this workshop is to discuss and reflect on approaches and methods used to enhance collaborative learning of practitioners, scientists and other societal stakeholders that aim at solving problems in complex ‘real world’ situations. We are interested in methods used to generate knowledge in collaborative learning processes, to improve access to information and information exchange, and finally to evaluate such processes relating to the generation and diffusion of knowledge in a transdisciplinary research setting.


We start off from our understanding that ‘real world’ systems change, when actors change their actions. Learning is regarded as a means to achieve self-driven change that is wanted and reflected upon by the actors, instead of being motivated by “sticks and carrots”. We are interested in approaches and methods that promote collaborative learning of members of different scientific disciplines and societal stakeholders involved in the management and governance of the respective ‘real world’ situation. Societal stakeholders include those that influence the ‘real world’ situation directly by their actions as practitioners or managers, or indirectly as members of institutions that determine the room for manoeuvre of other stakeholders. We emphasise the inclusion of practical knowledge and action in the collaborative learning process; firstly, because alternative practices cannot always be explored just “theoretically”; and secondly, because change in practical action does not only require knowledge on the pros and cons of a present (problematic) and a future (improved) situation, but also on the process of change. The stakeholders need to envisage and acquire the means, resources and capacities required to change from one situation to another. In this workshop we would like to present, discuss and reflect upon an array of different methodological approaches, ranging from ways to improve access to information and information exchange, to collaborative knowledge generation (e.g. inquiry and experimentation), and further including methods for the evaluation of such learning approaches. The latter include both ex ante approaches, i.e. participatory scenario analysis, or ex-post applications, such as participatory monitoring and evaluation. Special topics such as experiences made when sharing tacit knowledge and making it explicit, or other issues relating to enhanced mutual understanding between stakeholders of different social spheres, are also of interest. We welcome both theoretical/methodological contributions as well as empirical cases, for example in the area of food value chains or the rural development context.

Workshop process

We will organize a paper session but also allocate time for group discussions. In this way we will put emphasis on the joint reflection of the proposed approaches and methods.

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