New research grant!

Re-thinking Urban Natural Resource Management through 'Multiple Ways of Knowing'


Together with a wonderful interdisciplinary team of researchers, I just got funded a research project by Swedish Formas. The aim is to combine cultural geography, historical research, sociology and systems ecology to critique and re-think urban natural resource management in the face of increasing urban inequity and social heterogeneity. 


The 3-year research project on 8.7 MSEK (almost 1MEUR) is entitled "Re-thinking Urban Natural Resource Management through 'Multiple Ways of Knowing'". As principal investigator I will coordinate the project starting in the first half-year of 2011.


Case studies in Cape Town and Stockholm
The project will engage case studies in Cape Town and Stockholm where there is contestation over how to use urban space. Using these spaces, we aim to build knowledge on how the practice of natural resource management can come to exclude certain people and certain ways of knowing and engaging with urban ecological spaces. The aim is to build on such findings to challenge and sensitize the academic discourse and the practice of natural resource management (including its newer versions like adaptive governance and co-management) to such silencing. Departing from this understanding we believe a re-thinking of NRM can be done in the context of increasing urban complexity and diversity, and with the normative goals of reaching more inclusive urban governance. As we put it in the abstract of our application (see below):
Natural resource management (NRM) is increasingly understood not as an objective, value-free practice as once conceptualised. Rather, NRM is laden with particular 'ways of knowing' spaces and strong value-positions, which determine management practices. Vanguard NRM research shows how such value-positions can work to silence alternative 'ways of knowing' and valuing spaces, particularly those of the marginalised. As urban spaces face rapid environmental change, urbanisation, and consequently become more culturally diverse, NRM in cities becomes increasingly complex and liable to silencing practices. 
With natural resource management seen as a social practice, which not only intervene in biophysical processes, but also in social and cultural processes, we aim to:
interrogate the underlying assumptions, practices, concepts and value positions which [Natural Resource Management] entails through considering what are different 'ways of knowing' urban green spaces and value articulation processes.


The interdisciplinary research team
The research team consists of persons with disciplinary backgrounds ranging from systems ecology, urban social-ecology, cultural and human geography and environmental history, making the Formas evaluation committee stating that this is:
A research project with a strong interdisciplinary research team that really have the possibilty to develop and deepen the field of "urban ecology"/NRM
The research team consists of:
--- Dr Anna Storm, historian currently at Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden;
--- Dr Jane Battersby-Lennard, cultural geographer based at University of Cape Town, South Africa;
--- Marnie Graham (MSc), human geographer, Sweden/Australia with MSc thesis on a case study in Cape Town;
--- DR Shari Daya, cultural geographer, UCT, Cape Town;
--- Prof Sverker Sörlin, environmental historian at KTH, Stockholm
--- Prof Thomas Elmqvist, systems ecologist, SRC, Stockholm;
and
--- Dr Henrik Ernstson, urban social-ecologist, UCT/SRC Cape Town, Stockholm 


We are currently busying working out the administration of the project. The project will start during the first half-year of 2011. Below follows full abstract for the project and the evaluation decision from Formas.



Abstract from application
Natural resource management (NRM) is increasingly understood not as an objective, value-free practice as once conceptualised. Rather, NRM is laden with particular 'ways of knowing' spaces and strong value-positions, which determine management practices. Vanguard NRM research shows how such value-positions can work to silence alternative 'ways of knowing' and valuing spaces, particularly those of the marginalised. As urban spaces face rapid environmental change, urbanisation, and consequently become more culturally diverse, NRM in cities becomes increasingly complex and liable to silencing practices. This project considers how NRM can become aware of and sensitive to such silencing practices and alternative 'ways of knowing' urban spaces, and rather work towards empowering marginalised peoples. We interrogate the underlying assumptions, practices, concepts and value positions which NRM entails through considering what are different 'ways of knowing' urban green spaces and value articulation processes. Building on research from Stockholm we have chosen three urban sites in Cape Town and one in Stockholm. Subprojects A-C consider how values are formed in relation to these sites and also in common NRM conceptions of 'ecosystem services' and co-management?. Subproject D is an inter- disciplinary synthesis of Subprojects A-C to consider in what ways NRM can become more aware of and sensitive to alternative ways of knowing, and produce policy recommendations for future research.


Evaluation decision from Formas
Applicant
Stockholms universitet 
Doktor Henrik Emstson 
Stockholm Resilience Centre 
Kraftriket 2B
10691 Stockholm

Title: Re-thinking Urban Natural Resource Management through 'Multiple Ways of Knowing'

Evaluation


Scientific Quality Research question 
A. Excellent
Method and performance 
A. Excellent 
Scientific competence 
A. Excellent
Societal Value Importance for sustainable development 
A. High
Stakeholder engagement 
A. High
Societal value
AHigh

Comments
A research project with a strong interdisciplinary research team that really have the possibilty to develop and deepen the field of "urban ecology"/NRM. Excellent empirical study. Interesting mix of researchersresearch locations and approaches. As such this work is innovative and certainly multi- and inter-disciplinary in approach. The insights gained from this research will certainly contribute to knowledge on sustainable development and has great social value in terms of how people frame issues are natural resource management and how that framing affects the way in which issues are addressed. The researchers have the necessary background to be able to conduct this research, its approach will engage with stakeholders.

Final grade
A. Excellent application

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