Research & Action: the politics and practices of participation in the water sector

 Belleville - Cape Town - South Africa


The topic and skills taught in this refresher course cross disciplinary boundaries. The objective of the course is to broaden the transferable skill set for all professionals in the water sector. Alumni will be able to expand their breadth of knowledge beyond their specialization to consider social and political dimensions of water sector challenges.

For whom?

The course is structured so that it crosses the divide between hard technical sciences and the softer sciences that deal with governance and social justice concerns. Alumni also will learn new applied skills in relation to participatory techniques relevant for a variety of challenges within water service delivery, water services management, and water governance. Participants from a broad range of backgrounds, and professions will be challenged in how to DO participation to increase the sustainability, and impact social transformation through their day to day work in the sector, whether they are planners, managers, engineers, utility employees, government health workers, or scholars.

Course content

Module 1 - What is participation?

A review of the debates surrounding politics of participation over last decades. What we think it is, to what it often ends up being. Tracing its ascendancy within water sector, and how it has been used through case studies, across water sector and by variety of actors, to address different development challenges.

Module 2 - Why is this important?

Cover issues around participation and democracy, social justice, gender differences, and potential transformatory possibilities. Look at examples where participation has had positive, but also negative, impacts. Showcase best practices in participatory methods, application, and positive outcomes.

Module 3 - How to do it? techniques, practices, exercises

Introduction to variety of new methods, including participatory action research, mapping, digital storytelling.

Module 4 - Practice how to do it

application of new methods learned (field exercise, applied research site in research site of UWC), within a structured assignment. Participants will be divided into 2 or 3 groups, and given questions to answer using participatory methods, or will be given indicators to provide participatory monitoring and evaluation data.

Module 5 - How I can use it:

Presentation of Module 4 assignment and reflections on where participation can be included in the water sector - case studies, and reflection by participants from their own professional experiences (1/2 day). Making Terms of Reference - necessary budgets, skill sets, time frames required. Participation in demand assessment (feasibility studies) and monitoring and evaluation of water sector interventions.


Dr. Michelle Kooj, IHE Delft, coordinator


- University of the Western Cape |


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