Towards a Framework for Designing and Assessing Game-Based Approaches for Sustainable Water Governance – New paper (open-access)

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Together with Alice Aubert and Wietske Medema I co-authored a review paper on the designng and assessing of game-based approaches for sustainable water governance. In the paper we try to map these approaches using a heuristic that is derived from work Bob Jickling and I did well over 10 years ago on the positioning of sustainability-oriented education and learning. The resulting paper you can find below. Here is the abstratc. Disclosure: The paper appears in the journal Water which is part of MDPI whose publishing model I critiqued in an earlier blog post.

Abstract 

Most of the literature on serious games and gamification calls for a shift from evaluating practices to using theories to assess them. While the former is necessary to justify using game-based approaches, the latter enables understanding “why” game-based approaches are beneficial (or not). Based on earlier review papers and the papers in this special issue of Water entitled “Understanding game-based approaches for improving sustainable water governance: the potential of serious games to solve water problems”, we show that game-based approaches in a water governance context are relatively diverse. In particular, the expected aims, targeted audience, and spatial and temporal scales are factors that differentiate game-based approaches. These factors also strongly influence the design of game-based approaches and the research developed to assess them. We developed a framework to guide and reflect on the design and assessment of game-based approaches, and we suggest opportunities for future research. In particular, we highlight the lack of game-based approaches that can support “society-driven” sustainable water governance.
Here is the link to the full paper which is freely downloadable.
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Education for Sustainable Development in the ”Capitalocene” – Call for abstracts

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There is still some time to submit your manuscript idea or abstract for this special issue Educational Philosophy and Theory (EPAT) that I am co-editing with my Swedish colleagues from the University of Gothenburg – Helena Pedersen, Beniamin Knutsson, Dawn Sanders and Sally Windsor. The deadline for – just the abstract – is May first. Go to the Routledge website for the details and see the description below!

Special Issue

ESD in the ”Capitalocene”: Caught up in an impasse between Critique and Transformation

Has Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) reached an impasse? Offering an application of Baudrillard’s thoughts to educational research, Paul Moran and Alex Kendall wrote in 2009 that education researchers are engaged in an act of forgery; a manufacture of presuppositions about what education is. Moran and Kendall argue that our research approaches, produce nothing but illusions of education, not because our approaches and methodologies are somehow flawed, rather that these illusions are what education is. Education, they claim, does not exist beyond its simulation.

Perhaps more provocatively, this implies that all critique of educational practice, from the revolutionary critical theory of Marx and the Frankfurt School via Foucauldian power analyses, as well as more recent ”new materialist” and post-qualitative approaches and beyond –are also part of the simulation of education process. These movements constitute an “improvement agenda” of education, and over and over again, more interventions are produced and critiques are repeated to foster improvements, pursued as if they were possible (Moran & Kendall 2009, p. 329).

We would like to take this Baudrillardian analysis of education as a springboard for thinking around ESD and capitalism. ESD is paradoxically positioned right at the nexus of looming ecological crises (”the Anthropocene” [Crutzen & Stoermer 2000]; the ”Capitalocene” [Malm & Hornborg 2014]) while at the same time the ESD field has been severely criticised for its presumed normativity (Jickling 1994). Quite regardless of the validity of this critique, embedded in the core idea of ESD is, arguably, a grandiose ”improvement agenda” – not only of education, but of the planetary condition as such. There is an asssumption that if we can find the appropriate way of ”doing” ESD, a sustainable world is within reach.

However, if there is nothing that may be called education “that exists independently of the methodologies, comments, curricula designs, testing regimes, forms of discrimination”, as Moran and Kendall (2009, p. 333) put it, what place is there – if any – for ESD under current conditions of predatory capitalism, exploitation of natural “resources”, transgression of planetary boundaries, and the destructive fantasy of infinite growth? Does ESD generate nothing but reproduction, much like capitalism itself (e.g. Hellberg & Knutsson 2018)? Is ESD an affect-organizing “comfort-machine” in the classroom (Pedersen 2019), sustaining the present order of things? Perhaps Bruno Latour (2004) captures the point most aptly: ”Are we not like those mechanical toys that endlessly make the same gesture when everything else has changed around them?” (p. 225) Latour suggests, that the critic “is not the one who lifts the rugs from under the feet of the naïve believers, but the one who offers the participants arenas in which to gather” (p. 246). Such arenas, Giroux observes, need “an understanding of how the political becomes pedagogical, particularly in terms of how private issues are connected to larger social conditions and collective force” (Giroux 2004, p.62).

Stratford (2017) has recently called for education researchers to identify and respond to the challenging philosophical issues evoked by the current ecological crises. Our initiative is a response to Stratfords’s call; however, our starting point differs from how educational philosophy can “improve education in the Anthropocene” (p. 3) and is rather concerned with the “impossibility” of this claim.

We suggest that the idea of ESD as producing illusions of education rather than a sustainable world, does not necessarily lead to an impasse, but can, in Moran and Kendall’s (2009) words, be a very useful place to begin. We are looking for theory-, philosophy-, and empirically-driven papers that address the  ”impossible” position of ESD in ”the Capitalocene” at an urgent juncture in history.

Contributions may address, for instance, the following areas of inquiry;

  • Has ESD reached an impasse, and if so; how can it be understood?
  • Are there ”functions” of ESD beyond the improvement agenda, and beyond the cycle of Critique and Transformation?
  • Is ESD a form of simulation and, if so, what purposes might such simulation serve?
  • How can ESD effectively interfere with capitalism, its forces and threats to life-supporting Earth systems?
  • In what arenas of intervention and action can ESD assemble its participants?
  • How can we reimagine education in extinction and post-extinction narratives?

Submission Guidelines

Please send your abstract of 250-500 words, along with references and a brief bio, to both Helena Pedersen and Beniamin Knutsson, University of Gothenburg.

Final article manuscripts will be approx. 6000 words.

  • Abstract due: May 1, 2019
  • Notification of acceptance: May 20, 2019
  • Manuscript submission deadline: November 1, 2019

Guest Editors:

  • Helena Pedersen, University of Gothenburg
  • Beniamin Knutsson, University of Gothenburg
  • Dawn Sanders, University of Gothenburg
  • Sally Windsor, University of Gothenburg
  • Arjen Wals, University of Wageningen

Link to the publisher’s website is here!

EPAT

A Tribute to Tich Pesanayi (07/12/1965 – 16/04/2019)

Today I found out that the world lost a great African Environmental and Sustainability Educator: Dr. Victor Tichaona Pesanayia.

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Tich Pesanayi (07/12/1965 – 16/04/2019)

Tich was a gentle, kind and understanding person with Mandela-like qualities. From the first day I met him in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal,  he impressed and inspired me – he radiated calmness and wisdom and proved to be a masterful facilitator when we worked with a group from the University of Zululand with colleagues from Wageningen at WESSA.He later involved me in his PhD work as one of his supervisors, although my role was modest and I sometimes think I learnt more from him than the other way around. Just days before his passing he managed to attend the graduation ceremony at Rhodes University.

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Tich at his graduation at Rhodes University with his main supervisor and co-learner Heila Lotz-Sisitka

Life is not fair, we know that, but it hurts every time we witness it. I know he was a very religious man with faith – I am sure this provided him a lot of comfort. How wonderful that he was able to attend the gradation ceremony still.

I wish his family and loved ones lots of strength in coping with this tremendous loss. Rest assured though that he touched so many lives and his impact will travel much further still.

Below I am sharing the tribute to him from Mumsie Gumede, the president of the Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa EESA.

“We are immensely saddened by the passing of Dr Victor Tichaona Pesanayi, fondly known in our sector as Tich; a friend, colleague, teacher, scholar, mentor, leader, researcher, prolific writer, visionary activist for environmental education in the sub-region, and our Secretary General.

This comes a week after we celebrated his graduation with a PhD in Education at Rhodes University, South Africa.

Tich made his debut in our organisation, EEASA, and regional sector at large during the times of the POEM – a schools’ environmental policy programme that was run by Environment Africa, Zimbabwe, under the leadership and mentorship of Innocent Hodzonge. Some will recall his EEASA 2004 remarkable presentation which was fully subscribed to the point that Janet Snow, the Treverton Colleges conference organizer had to make additional slots available in the programme. Others will remember him during the thorough research and feedback workshops at EEASA 2006 in Harare when EEASA and the SADC Regional Environmental Education Programme (SADC-REEP) were paving the way for bottom up participation in the 2005-1014 UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD). The research he did with Prof. Heila Sisitka, Dr Lausanne Olvitt and Mumsie Gumede was subsequently published through Share-Net as a series of written reports. Some UNESCO Commissioners and EE practitioners will remember him for the UNDESD mid-term evaluation research workshops in the SADC sub-region, working with the SADC REEP team and Prof. Overson Chumba, Zambia. He later joined WESSA in Howick to take over the SADC-REEP management baton from Dr Justin Lupele, Mumsie Gumede, Mike Ward and Dr Jim Taylor with amazing fortitude; hitting the ground running, as the programme was just evolving into a different stage.

Tich contributed to EEASA in many ways. He served in the EEASA Council since 2007 and played a strategic role in keeping EEASA, SADC REEP, and SADC EE Networks together. This work was so strategic that he was co-opted into Council a number of times to support specific areas that enhance the regionalization and scaling of (ESD) through EEASA. Whether he was elected, co-opted or merely volunteering as an ordinary member, his contributions were always profound and insightful. In a way, he was the back-bone of the EEASA Council for many years! He researched and wrote articles on EEASA nodes and networks, and introduced a number of people to the Association as he traversed the region, and indeed the globe, representing the sub-regional ESD voice….”multiple voices, diversity of contributing voices, convergence (solidarity) and divergence of voices, and silent voices…”, in conversation with Tich, Feb 2019.

On Thursday, 11 April 2019 Tich graduated with his PhD from Rhodes University to his and his family’s joy. His PhD was not just written in words, it was realized in the lives of the many people he worked with over the course of his study, including a number of young scholars whom he mentored, some of whom were introduced to EEASA such as Keneilwe Mathaba, Phindi Sithole, Chisala Lupele, and Sarah Durr all of whom have much to offer EEASA in future. Tich would have wanted the next generation to take on the task of carrying EEASA forward where he left it off. His mentorship is aptly captured by the Muxombo Youth Group in Alice who are part of the Amanzi for Food training programme:“The work of Mr. Tich lives through us today at eSixekwe location! Sobonana kwelizayo mnumzana.”

Indeed, Tichaona’s contributions to EEASA are deep and strong, eternally captured in his prolific academic writing and book contributions. His PhD is one that can provide leadership for the SADC sub-region for many years to come. This is the citation that was read on his PhD study on Thursday morning at his PhD graduation:

African communities have been disconnected from land, and from traditional agro-ecological practices including seed saving and water harvesting. In this study Tichaona recovers African cultures of agriculture. Working generatively with agricultural colleges and farmers in South Africa and Zimbabwe he re-centres the smallholder farmer in agricultural education and learning systems. His expansive, boundary-crossing learning network approach to transformative learning in agricultural learning systems offers a new model for agricultural education and training in Africa with significant theoretical and practical implications”.

Our hearts go out to his dear wife Amanda, his mother and the broader family. We thank them for sharing this kind giant with us at home and away from home. May they be comforted by the knowledge that it was not in vain as accolades keep coming in for Tich from all over the world.

“…I remember him very well from various meetings and I always enjoyed working together. Warmest condolences”Alexander Leicht, UNESCO, Paris, France.

At SWEDESD we are honored and blessed to have known Dr Victor Tichaona Pesanayi. His passing is a loss for the environment and sustainability community, EEASA, SADC, and the UNESCO Global Action Programme. I cannot say in words what he has done for the sector and those who came to know him. Although we have lost him, his legacy as a model in our professional and personal life – no one can take away….”Dr Shepherd Urenje, SWEDESD, University of Uppsala, Sweden.

Tichaona has left us a beautiful legacy. He has taught many of us how to live a life of kindness, care and always show the greatest generosity of spirit and mind. He will be sadly missed at the ELRC, in EEASA, in SADC and elsewhere”Prof Heila Lotz-Sisitka, Rhodes University

I will miss Tich, a humble and dedicated personality who loved to touch everyone with care. I have always enjoyed working with Tich, and every time he spent a weekend in Windhoek he insisted that we go together to the Seventh Day Adventist Church…..” Dr Alex Kanyimba, University of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia

Even when his health was failing him, he actively participated in the last EEASA Conference in Zambia with zeal and dedication. He chaired sessions and volunteered to manage some sessions. Tich was a great listener and thoughtful person.”Dr Justin Lupele, Education for Sustainable Development Specialist, Managing Consultant Beehive Associates Limited, Zambia

Much love and honor to a truly great man, a caring friend, a Room 20 study mate, and OUR cherished Comrade in education that translates to sustainability in all practices – in thinking, learning, living and development. He will be missed by many but never will he be forgotten by those who were fortunate enough to have known him”… Dr Presha Ramsarup, Dr Caleb Mandikonza, Dr Dick Kachilonda

Dear Tich, although our words may never tell the full story of the man you were, may we grow with and grow from your legacy – let our appreciation and respect for your contributions be seen in the growth of EEASA and all that you stood for.”

Mumsie Gumede

(EEASA PRESIDENT)

17 April 2019

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COMPOSE – A transdisciplinary Masterclass in the Art of being a Researcher in turbulent times of fake news and climate change

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In May I will be part of, what promises to be, and exciting one-day Masterclass in Gothenburg about the art of being a researcher  in turbulent times of fake news and climate change.

Climate scientists regularly emit dire warnings illustrating dangerous changes to the oceans and atmosphere. At the same time there’s a lack of connection between the facts drawn from climate science and the immediate motivations required to drive active prioritisation of climate action

This gap between fact and action is possibly most staggering at universities. As their academics publish one distressing fact after, universities largely continue with business as usual. This is arguably because climate science primarily originates from epistemologies that prioritise measurability and predictability of climate change rather than interpretative, subjective approaches that deal with people’s perceptions of change and their ability to respond. From a positivist position, scientists are expected to separate themselves from their subject. In the case of climate change, where the researcher is inherently part of the social and climatological system that they are researching, such assumed separation and exemption of action is proving to become fatal.

We invite academics of all stripes and disciplines to reinvent the role of the researcher to be reliable authors of facts, as well as pioneers in acting upon those facts. We will explore what it means to be impacted by and embedded in our research whilst retaining a degree of scientific distance and composure. How can we be a researcher/scientist, as well as a parent, community member and essentially human living in these increasingly complex and confusing times? What are the unique attributes that a researcher brings to this matter and what (new) epistemologies fit this reimagined position?

Hosted by former Carl Bennet Guest Professor in Education for Sustainable Development Arjen Wals and his international colleagues, the day aims to radically shift our perspectives and research practice. The session will draw from the results of the international research project Imaginative Disruptions, funded by The Seed Box.

The Masterclass is free and lunch will be provided, but places are limited and must be booked in advance here. We will take bookings until the 23rd of May.

For more information please contact Åse Bjurström on ase.bjurstrom@gu.se

In collaboration with University of Gothenburg and GMV/Gothenburg Centre for Sustainable Development

Living Spiral Framework – Seeds of Sustainable Transitions

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Over the past three years I have been fortunate to be a part of an ISSC supported Transformative Knowledge Network (TKN) called the T-Learning Network (see: T-Learning Network Website). The network has yielded several highly cited academic papers but, fortunately, also more practical ideas, concepts and tools. Three young and talented people in the network -Thomas Macintyre, Martha Chaves and Dylan McGary – co-created a lovely guide in both Spanish and English introducing one of the networks most exciting ideas: the Living Spiral Framework. This guide is targeted at researchers and practitioners interested in sharing their research into transformative and transgressive learning in the field of sustainability, climate change, and social and environmental justice.

In the introduction the guide states:

“We can understand transformative learning as transformations in beliefs, values and practices in a way that helps us live a more socially and ecologically responsible way. Delving deeper into the intricacies of transformation, we arrive at the emerging field of ‘transgressive learning,” a critical and action-oriented form of learning which challenges normalised systems which have become oppressive and detrimental to life.

We believe questioning our unsustainable beliefs, worldviews and practices as well as offering alternatives, is needed for such deeper learning to occur and transgress. To achieve this we need voices and narratives from actors within and outside of academia: from social learning facilitators, to indigenous shamen; from the city-based sustainability practitioners to the rural farmer, to have different perspectives on understanding transformation towards sustainability.

This guide provides a step-by-step guide for discovering how and to what extent, personal and collective learning journeys result in transformations towards sustainability, including the challenges and tensions experienced along the way. Moreover, it will allow you to follow the process cautiously to find your own indicators of transformation, unexpected results and opportunities, as well as other experiences along the way.” (Macintyre, Chaves, McGary, 2018 – p. 8).

Below you see the core of the framework which can be found here in its entirety Living Spiral Framework. If you want to more you can go http://www.transgressivelearning.org or email one of the authors: Thomas Macintyre <thomas.macintyre@gmail.com>

SpiralYou can also read our latest academic paper related to this work in the Journal of Action Research in its recent special issue on action research and climate change here: T-labs and climate change narratives: Co-researcher qualities in transgressive action–research

Climate change, education and sustainable development – Podcast on FreshEd

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What’s the connection between education and climate change? I was interviewed about this question by Will Rehm of FreshEd – a popular podcast on the future of education –  at the 2018 Global Education Meeting, a high-level UNESCO forum held in Brussels. The Forum reviewed the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. In our conversation, I raised the issue of the ‘hidden curriculum of unsustainability that is born out of schools focusing on preparing learners for the globalizing economy as workers and consumers’. I tried to move beyond providing a critique – which is relatively easy – to also sketch some hopeful practices and possibilities of whole school approaches towards sustainable development. In the interview I call for more freedom and dissonance in education systems to engage with every day and emergent challenges in relation to sustainability in general and climate change more specifically. You can find the interview here!

Citation: Wals, Arjen, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 144, podcast audio, January 14, 2019.

“We no longer wish to participate in the ranking of people” Ghent University wants to become a place where talent feels valued and nurtured

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“A university is above all a place where everything can be questioned.”

My last two blog posts have been raising some critical questions about the viability and legitimacy of the scientific ‘enterprise’ in neo-liberal times. The Publish AND Perish blog post led to a lot of responses from colleagues within academic but also from the publishing ‘industry,’ including from the CEO of MDPI, Paul Vazquez. Coincidentally, a few weeks later, Ghent University in Belgium released a statement in which the university declared to go  – what I would call – ‘off-the-grid’ of commodification, marketization and economic globalization by turning towards, autonomy, (local) relevance, responsibility towards people and, hopefully planet as well, by creating spaces for transdisciplinarity, boundary-crossing and collaborative action (perhaps I am filtering the statement using my own lens – apologies if I do so). Below some excerpts form the statement which can be found here as well: Ghent University’s New Pathway

Here is the message from Ghent’s Vice Chancellor Rik van de Walle

‘We are transforming our university into a place where talent once again feels valued and nurtured’

(17-12-2018)

Our university should once again belong to the academics, rather than the bureaucracy, writes the rector of Ghent University, Rik Van de Walle.

Ghent University is deliberately choosing to step out of the rat race between individuals, departments and universities. We no longer wish to participate in the ranking of people.

It is a common complaint among academic staff that the mountain of paperwork, the cumbersome procedures and the administrative burden have grown to proportions that are barely controllable. Furthermore, the academic staff is increasingly put under pressure to count publications, citations and doctorates, on the basis of which funds are being allocated. The intense competition for funding often prevails over any possible collaboration across the boundaries of research groups, faculties and – why not – universities. With a new evaluation policy, Ghent University wants to address these concerns and at the same time breathe new life into its career guidance policy. Thus, the university can again become a place where talent feels valued and nurtured. We are transforming our university into a place where talent once again feels valued and nurtured.
With the new career and evaluation model for professorial staff, Ghent University is opening new horizons for Flanders. The main idea is that the academy will once again belong to the academics rather than the bureaucracy. No more procedures and processes with always the same templates, metrics and criteria which lump everyone together.
We opt for a radically new model: those who perform well will be promoted, with a minimum of accountability and administrative effort and a maximum of freedom and responsibility. The quality of the individual human capital is given priority: talent must be nurtured and feel valued.
This marks the end of the personalized objectives, the annual job descriptions and the high number of evaluation documents and activity reports. Instead, the new approach is based on collaboration, collegiality and teamwork. All staff members will make commitments about how they can contribute to the objectives of the department, the education programmes, the faculty and the university.
The evaluations will be greatly simplified and from now on only take place every five years instead of every two or four years. This should create an ‘evaluation break’. 

 

We opt for a radically new model: those who perform well will be promoted, with a minimum of accountability and administrative effort and a maximum of freedom and responsibility. At the same time, we want to pay more attention to well-being at work: the evaluations of the supervisors will explicitly take into account the way in which they manage and coach their staff. The model must provide a response to the complaint of many young professors that quantitative parameters are predominant in the evaluation process. The well-known and overwhelming ‘publication pressure’ is the most prominent exponent of this. Ghent University is deliberately choosing to step out of the rat race between individuals, departments and universities. We no longer wish to participate in the ranking of people.

Through this model, we are expressly taking up our responsibility. In the political debate on the funding of universities and research applications, a constant argument is that we want to move away from purely competitive thinking that leaves too little room for disruptive ideas. The reply of the policy makers is of course that we must first do this within the university itself. This is a clear step in that direction, and it also shows our efforts to put our own house in order.
With this cultural shift, Ghent University is taking the lead in Flanders, and we are proud of it. It is an initiative that is clearly in accordance with our motto: ‘Dare to Think’. Even more so, we dare to do it as well.
A university is above all a place where everything can be questioned.
Where opinions, procedures and habits are challenged. Where there is no place for rigidity.

 

I am absolutely convinced that in a few years’ time we will see that this new approach has benefited the overall quality of our university and its people.

Rik Van de Walle, rector.