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Towards social learning in water related multi-stakeholder processes: investigating the value of information systems.

dc.contributor.advisorNel, Adrian.
dc.contributor.authorMhlongo, Thembeka Rachel.
dc.descriptionMasters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.en_US
dc.description.abstractThe challenge of behaving wisely concerning water constitutes itself as a wicked problem for humankind. This is particularly true for the management of the resource in South Africa. Wicked problems are termed such as they exist in social conditions of high complexity and uncertainty, amidst multiple perspectives where stakeholders are urgently attempting to solve the problems they see. Furthermore, wicked water-related problems become more challenging with climate change and uncertainty on the rise. All of the above holds for the uMngeni catchment in Kwazulu- Natal, South Africa, where environmental degradation and water stresses put additional pressure on the management of an increasingly scarce resource. In such contexts, a collective engagement approach by all stakeholders is essential for social learning and for fostering wise actions in complex dynamic stakeholder engagement spaces. Key studies indicate that information and knowledge co-generation within socio-scientific spaces is essential to feed the process of learning, and that this co-generation can be facilitated outside the typical physical space - in virtual hyperspaces of information systems. This study engaged with both the extent of social learning in the Umgeni catchment as well as the potential of ICTs to contribute to improve social learning in future. The aim of this research was thus to deepen understanding of the specific role of information systems, formed in virtual engagement spaces, for social learning. Practically, it also aimed to provide recommendations on the specific actions that can be taken to create a nourishing context for such social learning. The broad framework that underpinned this exploratory research and its methods was the social learning theory, while methodologically the qualitative data were gathered in line with Theory-Uan action research approach to knowledge creation and social learning. Using the researcher’s position as an embedded stakeholder, the study was grounded in the context of selected cases or multi-stakeholder groups in the upper uMngeni catchment. These cases are of three water-related multi-stakeholder groups in the uMngeni catchment. Participatory observation (PO) and action research (AR) were utilised, which involved the researcher in bio-monitoring and other water-related fieldwork projects with multi-stakeholder groups, meetings and partnerships in the catchment. Lastly, two selected emerging integrated information management systems - Mathuba web-based WIKI and the MIKE INFO desktop-based water management information system – were explored. Using the pre-conditions of social learning as an analytical framework of the results it was found that the degree of social learning was highest in the small community, local level of stakeholder engagement. Social learning registered the least in the larger catchment size scale of stakeholder engagement as well as at an intermediate level in the sub-catchment scale of multi-stakeholder engagement. Key themes identified across the scales of engagement included: high stakeholder empowerment by self-identity change and stakeholder education; a lack of continuous participation and barriers to knowledge sharing hindering social learning; and a lack of participation and implementation of relevant actors for all the groups. It was also found that these barriers and prohibiting factors to social learning can be overcome through the use of integrated information systems that variously promote transparency of information, virtual inclusiveness in engagement of actors at the local scale and the enhancing of trust and relationships using virtual platform features such as online placed GIS-based maps, documentation and forums. Challenges of employing such information systems were concluded to be complexity, costs and the lack of suitable facilitators of the software and virtual engagement of actors. Of the two explored information systems: The Mathuba WIKI site seemed most plausible, yet this ideal kind of supporting information systems, may risk being too complicated and its use may not be sustainable in the future. It was thus concluded that in order for such information systems to be included in support of multi-stakeholder engagement in the future, they must be integrated, inclusive, cocreated and truly transparent and should make good use of visual representations of water problem realities through maps, graphs and images that tell stories. Such information should also be piloted at the 3 main case study scales; the UEIP (large catchment management group), MCMF (subcatchment management group) and LCPG (local community groups). This can be evaluated and the results published for future applications on the national scale.en_US
dc.subject.otherWater-related problems.en_US
dc.subject.otherWater catchments--South Africa.en_US
dc.subject.otherWater management--South Africa.en_US
dc.titleTowards social learning in water related multi-stakeholder processes: investigating the value of information systems.en_US


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