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Complexity of Stakeholder Interaction in Applied Research

Caroline Pade-Khene, Rhodes University
Rebecca Luton, University of the Witwatersrand
Tarina Jordaan, North-West University
Sandra Hildbrand, University of Kwazulu-Natal
Cecile Gerwel Proches, University of Kwazulu-Natal
Andile Sitshaluza, University of Cape Town
James Dominy, Stellenbosch University
Wonga Ntshinga, Tshwane University of Technology
Nosipho Moloto, University of the Witwatersrand


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Applied research in complex integrated settings should be recognized as an endeavor that requires transdisciplinary and multisectoral stakeholder interactions. The problems faced in society are quite complex, requiring participation and knowledge from diverse aspects of society, including different disciplines (academia), communities, civil society, and government. Successful applied research relies on nurturing these key stakeholder relationships and interactions. This paper explores the key challenges of stakeholder interaction in applied research in three disciplines in the South African context, based on literature and the experience of authors in their disciplines. The three disciplines include information and communication technology for development, town and regional planning, and natural resource management. We attempt to also compare and contrast these challenges across the disciplines, to identify any commonalities and differences. After considering the mutual challenges and adaptive solutions to address these challenges in the different disciplines, we identify that all three areas in relation to stakeholder interaction appear to exhibit characteristics of complex systems, hence motivating to view applied research as a complex system. In this sense, complexity theory may provide a common language between the different disciplines examining transdisciplinary stakeholder interaction in applied research from a shared perspective.

Key words

applied research; information and communication technology for development; natural resources; stakeholder interaction; town and regional planning; transdisciplinarity

Copyright © 2013 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087