Co-learning and co-creating useful knowledge with 'communities' in marginalised settings

7 August 2020 | 10:30 - 12:00

Presenter: Dr Il-haam Petersen, Human Sciences Research Council

The need for publicly-funded research and innovation to be more inclusive of the needs and capabilities of people in resource-poor community settings has been given renewed emphasis in the 2019 White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation. A concern is that, when it comes to research and innovation, community-based actors are very typically involved as recipients of one-directional flows of knowledge from “experts” based in universities, science councils and other institutes of science. In this mode of practice, communities are included as passive beneficiaries, and engagement can become exploitative and primarily to the benefit of the university, science institution or the individual student. The question arises: how can universities and science institutes engage with ‘communities’ to mutual benefit? With funding from the National Research Foundation, we started a project in 2017 to explore ways for universities and science institutions to better engage at the community level and contribute more to change in their local settings. We conducted in-depth case studies in three local settings: a township area in Cape Town, a rural village in the Eastern Cape and a remote town in the Northern Cape. The data was collected through four participatory stakeholder workshops (each included approximately 40 participants), three Photovoice workshops and one digital workshop, two focus groups, 39 in-depth semi-structured interviews, and participant observation. The aim of the presentation is to share our approach and experience in experimenting with participatory methodologies that enable co-production and co-learning. The research provides potentially useful insights on ways in which the Impact Centre could support engaged research at the HSRC.

See our project webpage for more information and to access some of the research outputs:

Please RSVP by 6 August to Arlene Grossberg at

Zoom link:

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