Knowledge & Innovation Studies

The Knowledge & Innovation Studies Chair group is concerned with understanding and shaping the role knowledge and innovation dynamics in transformative change processes.

Set against ever complex societal challenges and in the light of digital innovations, this chair group contributes to the deeper understanding and analysis of innovative, problem-driven forms of knowledge generation and application as well as innovation processes in the water sector. We undertake Action Research (including participatory action research) in the context of water-related multi-stakeholder projects, to trigger action and change and accompany this with critical reflection based on sound social science research theories and methods (behavioural sciences, innovation studies, political science, knowledge management, management studies and development studies).

The research in this Chair group cuts across all areas of water management and governance: water resources management, water services, as well as flood and drought risk management and provides the basis for theory and practice-based contributions to the education programme of the Institute.

Three interlinked sub-themes

  • The human and social dimension of Citizen Science
  • Social innovation and stakeholder engagement
  • Water innovation dynamics

The human and social dimension of Citizen Science

Enhanced by the possibilities provided by a range of ICTs for novel forms of interaction, Citizen Science offers a unique opportunity for a paradigm shift in the co-creation and application of knowledge. In so doing, it can trigger shifts in the role of citizens and communities in environmental management and related decision making, with significant (potential and realised) impacts on existing governance processes.

This sub-theme is advancing the understanding of Citizen Science as a transformative process of data and knowledge co-creation and application with the public and/or dedicated communities of stakeholders, with a particular focus on substantiating the theoretical understanding of the human and social dimensions of Citizen Science. It explores the motivations and behaviour of citizens, communities and other main actors in citizen science initiatives; it examines the opportunities, challenges and appropriateness of different co-design approaches and practices; it considers how Citizen Science can contribute to monitoring progress towards attaining the SDGs and how Citizen Science initiatives can be strengthened to support behaviour change towards attaining the SDGs; it analyses the processes and dynamics involved in the inclusion of evidence collected via Citizen Science initiatives in evidence-based policy making at different governance levels; it develops a consolidated impact assessment framework for citizen science initiatives.

Social innovation and stakeholder engagement

Social innovation refers to both, the processes and the outcomes of addressing unsatisfied collective needs or societal returns.

Previous work of the KIS chair group has advanced the concept of social innovation as consisting of distinct but closely related dimensions, namely technology, capacity development, governance, interaction processes, and the creation of business opportunities. Interaction processes are key in bringing these distinct dimensions together, ensuring that all relevant stakeholders and ideas are engaged and involved from the start through to adaptation and upscaling.

This sub-theme is exploring how water-related challenges can be tackled meaningfully and sustainably; it examines the role of (different forms of) stakeholder engagement strategies in the process for achieving the convergence of goals; it also contributes implementation insights by examining the ways in which the basis for social innovation projects orientated towards strengthening (not ‘giving’) empowerment in remote communities can be created.

Water innovation dynamics

This sub-theme focuses on incubation as a means of fostering water innovation at an aggregate level, including innovations focused on strengthening monitoring and forecasting capacity via Citizen Science, Earth Observation or a combination of both.

It explores how to expand innovation support beyond pilots and all pre-requisites for upscaling water innovations which have the potential to become game changers in the water sector; it conducts further research into virtual incubation programmes; it contributes to the advancement and validation of methodologies in order to provide policy, management  and capacity development guidance on how to foster water innovation most effectively along the innovation chain; it also examines how the individual, organisational and institutional capacity of actors in the water innovation system in developing countries can best be strengthened in order to foster an enabling environment for water innovation.

Staff members

PhD fellows


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