Multi-track TTDR processes:

There is not just one way of conducting TTDR processes, but indeed multiple different ways of initiating and managing these. How we actually go about doing this in practice, is always context dependent — meaning that it is contingent upon both the actual issues and stakeholders involved.

When taken together, the following three processes make up a multi-track approach:

  • Track.1: Formal processes ~ engaging with legitimised stakeholders mandated to represent and make decisions on behalf of the needs and interests of others in collaborative decision-making processes;
  • Track.2: Informal processes ~ engaging with non-legitimised social actors in their informal networks and settings with no official mandate to speak or make decisions on behalf of others — only for themselves;
  • Track.3: Hybrid processes ~ engaging with individuals or groups who are in a transitionary — in-between — state of legitimation. In other words, people who are in the process of becoming legitimised. In practice, this means that the physical presence of (already) legitimised decision-makers is not fundamental prerequisite for initiating TTDR processes. Instead, what is required is working with the de facto reality of emerging legitimation — i.e. starting TTDR processes with non-legitmised social actors whose participation in the TTDR processes may contribute to them becoming more formally legitimised. In other words, stakeholder legitimation is more of a process outcome than an assumed reality.

If conceived of as a multi-track approach, the above three processes can be visualised as follows:

Note: although the differences between these three tracks are significant, it is important to see of them as transdisciplinary research processes in their own right. In other words, the formality vs. informality dynamic does not determine whether research processes are ‘more’ or ‘less’ transdisciplinary and running the risk of getting drawn into starting a new paradigm / methods war — with the prospect of producing some clear winners vs. losers. A better approach to adopt would be that of methodologically agility and allowing the transdisciplinary nature of research processes to be determined by the question whether the issues at hand are too complex to be tackled from within academia only — thereby compelling disciplinary experts, from various academic disciplines, to engage with relevant — legitimised as well as non-legitimised — societal participants.

What is equally important about working with these different kinds of societal participants is the dynamic of them entering transdisciplinary processes with very different understandings and expectations of their own agency and their ability to change the complex challenges at hand — especially if informal social actors come from an experience of community activism. The implications of this could be telling for the process of co-producing said systems, target and transformation knowledge. However, the extent to which this dynamic actually playing itself out in practice will vary from context to context — depending on the complexity of actual issues at hand and the relevant societal participants involved.

There are certainly no easy ways and means of dealing with this dynamic, but is certainly something that researchers / academics need to pay very close attention to when engaging with societal participants from different walks of life and with different experiences and insights into their own agency in social change processes.

Using the Jahn model (2008) as an ideal-typical framework (Weber) is quite a useful exercise for conceiving of collaborative transdisciplinary modes of doing science with society:

Note: The dynamically highlighted middle section (in blue) signifies any one of the above mentioned three different multi-track processes. However, in practice, TTDR processes will never be as linear as depicted in the above visualisation. In reality, these processes are a lot more non-linear / iterative. This is indeed the case when adopting NAR approach for conducting TTDR processes, which can be visualised as follows:

Note: it is not impossible to visualise the above as a more linear process with some distinct phases and steps — as is discussed in more detail on the methods page.