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The Objectives of Stakeholder Involvement in Transdisciplinary Research. A Conceptual Framework for a Reflective and Reflexive Practise

Laura Schmidt, Thomas Falk, Marianna Siegmund-Schultze, Joachim H. Spangenberg
Ecological economics 2020 v.176 pp. 106751
cooperative research, learning, motivation, planning, research projects, scientists, stakeholders, sustainable land management, South America, South East Asia, Southern Africa
Transdisciplinary research is a well-recognised approach to address complex real-world problems. However, the literature on a central aspect of transdisciplinarity, namely stakeholder involvement, largely lacks a reflection on its objectives. In response, we present a framework defining four general rationales for stakeholder involvement: normative, substantive, social-learning, and implementation objectives. We demonstrate the applicability of the framework and analyse how the design and processes of three collaborative research projects dealing with sustainable land management in Southern Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America were affected by motivations to include stakeholders.Our assessment indicates that at the projects' outset, many scientists pursued a normative rationale and saw stakeholder involvement as a burden. In the course of the projects, the substantive objective became more relevant as being closely linked to the core mandate of scientists. The projects also aimed for social learning and implementation processes, which, however, did not remain uncontested among team members. Overall, our study indicates that jointly negotiating, clarifying, communicating, and reflecting the underlying objectives of stakeholder involvement can help developing more effective interaction strategies and clarifying expectations. The conceptual framework can guide a systematic reflective and reflexive practise and support the planning and co-designing of future transdisciplinary research projects.