Challenges and Opportunities of Co-production in Comparative Projects: Experiences from an international urban sustainability research project

Authors: Sandra Valencia*, Mistra Urban Futures, Chalmers University of Technology, Sylvia Croese, African Centre for Cities, Michael Oloko, Oginga University of Science and Technology, Nick Taylor Buck, The Urban Institute, The University of Sheffield
Topics: Qualitative Methods, Urban and Regional Planning, Urban Geography
Keywords: co-production, transdisciplinarity; comparative projects; sustainable urban development
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Galerie 3, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The co-production of research projects with actors from and outside academia has been proposed as an important approach for dealing with wicked sustainability problems. The challenges of co-production in individual research have been extensively discussed in the literature, including power dynamics, time constraints and the varying benefits of the produced knowledge. This paper adds an additional piece to the co-production puzzle, that of co-producing comparative projects. The paper draws on a comparative research project currently carried out by Mistra Urban Futures in different cities across the world. The project is analyzing how cities are engaging with, interpreting and implementing Agenda 2030 and the New Urban Agenda. While the initial research idea came from the research institute, the remaining aspects of the research are being conducted with transdisciplinary co-production as a key aspect of the research in the different cities. This paper draws lessons from the inception phase of the project in the cities of Cape Town, Gothenburg, Kisumu and Sheffield. The co-production of knowledge in these cities has been mostly between researchers and city officials. We reflect on what co-production means in the context of a comparative urban sustainability research project. We analyze the different configurations co-production takes, how it is set-up and practiced in these cities. We also discuss the challenges and opportunities that arise both because of local dynamics, but because of the need to maintain enough similarities across the cities for the comparative component of the project.

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