Dr Sharon Pollard - Executive Director of the Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD) based in South Africa - will present a webinar for our fourth event scheduled for 27th July at 12 noon (UK time). Sharon’s talk will be on Systemic praxis for water governance: Unnecessary divergence or essential framing? Sharon will be introduced by Professor Ray Ison from the Applied Systems Thinking in Practice (ASTiP) group at the OU.
Sharon and AWARD conduct pioneering research and advocacy work using systems thinking in practice in domains such as water and food supply, climate adaptation, biodiversity conservation and evaluation principally in rural areas and with underprivileged communities in South Africa. Sharon has recently led AWARD through the delivery of an ambitious programme of applied/action research in the US$8.5 million project RESILIM-O, to enhance the governance and resilience of the Olifants River Catchment. She has a strong background in the water sector with a special focus on integrated catchment management planning and implementation.
Sharon Pollard presentation outline: Despite the progressive and enabling legislative and institutional framework for integrated approaches to water security, there is growing evidence that the integrity of many river systems in southern Africa is declining. Such trends resonate with global concerns of water security given an increasingly complex and dynamic context within which water governance is required to act. The normative framing of problems as simple causalities, together with linear thinking and practices continue to dominate despite increasingly complex governance domains and outcomes that throw into question such approaches.
This talk describes experiences of a large, transboundary seven-year initiative in southern Africa designed to counterpoint reductionist praxis through the explicit adoption of systemic, social learning approaches. The RESILIM-Olifants Programme aimed to build the resilience of people and ecosystems to climate change within the highly degraded Olifants River Basin shared between South Africa and Mozambique. We share insights and challenges of grappling with such a framing for programmatic design and implementation where the team attempted to fully engage with what this means, not only for ways of thinking, but also for ways of working and interacting with stakeholders, as well as for internal governance and meeting monitoring and evaluation obligations. Novel programmatic and project design features were deployed from the start, drawing both support and critique. We reflect on how this evolved in practice where emergence and surprise throughout the programme required reflection, learning and innovation – all traits that are enabled through systemic praxis. Sharon reflects on the use of a systemic framing in seeking transformation in river governance, and what was enabled as well as the challenges that emerged for systemic practice and offers some insights on potential ways forward.
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2021 is the jubilee year of Systems Thinking in Practice (STiP) at The Open University (OU).