Knowledge for a sustainable world

This year is the International Year of Water Cooperation. While global experts met in Stockholm last week to discuss the future of water management through cooperation, we reflect on NRI's recent research in water management.

NRI has been conducting research on the pioneering use of learning alliances as an innovative mechanism to promote Integrated Urban Water Management. Learning alliances were a key feature of one of NRIs recent projects (SWITCH 2006-2011). The research, carried out by Bertha Darteh, a student from Ghana, is supervised by Adrienne Martin (Director of Programme Development at NRI) and Alistair Sutherland (Visiting Fellow in Livelihood and Institutional Strengthening).

This research explores key issues that are at the forefront of current global discourse on water management

  • - Integrated urban water management
  • - Promotion of research into use
  • - Promotion of learning and innovation in water management
  • - Co-operation in water management as part of water governance

With growing interest in the application of new governance models in water management, it is hoped that the results of the research will further deepen our understanding about new forms of learning and cooperation in water management and provide insight into how the new generation of leaders and managers of our water systems can promote a paradigm shift in urban water management, while ensuring resilience to issues such as climate change.

For researchers seeking to increase impact, the research will provide insight into how decision makers could be influenced through action research and social learning tools such as those used by the learning alliance. Exploring cases from both North and South means that the results of this research will not only be applicable in developing countries, but will also be useful for developed countries on how to deal with the emerging dynamics related to the regeneration of cities.

Initial results from the research show improved innovation capacities in the city stakeholder groups that were part of the learning alliance, as well as engaged and empowered citizens. The influence of power relations in learning is also evident in the process of stakeholder engagement.

Bertha said; "I see learning and collaboration making a significant contribution to the future ability of our cities to manage water in a sustainable manner and this research on learning alliances provides a means to understand how this can happen. This is important, particularly in developing countries which may lack effective political leadership and have weak institutional governance which affect their ability to tackle deep seated problems in water management."