Original Research

Evaluating the outcomes and processes of a research-action partnership: The need for continuous reflective evaluation

Chantal Taylor, Jessica Cockburn, Mathieu Rouget, Jayanti Ray-Mukherjee, Shomen Mukherjee, Rob Slotow, Debra Roberts, Richard Boon, Sean O’Donoghue, Errol Douwes
Bothalia | Vol 46, No 2 | a2154 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/abc.v46i2.2154 | © 2016 Chantal Taylor, Jessica Cockburn, Mathieu Rouget, Jayanti Ray-Mukherjee, Shomen Mukherjee, Rob Slotow, Debra Roberts, Richard Boon, Sean O’Donoghue, Errol Douwes | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 August 2016 | Published: 03 December 2016

About the author(s)

Chantal Taylor, School of Agriculture, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Jessica Cockburn, Department of Environmental Science, Rhodes University, South Africa
Mathieu Rouget, School of Agriculture, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Centre for Invasion Biology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Jayanti Ray-Mukherjee, School of Liberal Studies, Azim Premji University, Bangalore, India
Shomen Mukherjee, School of Liberal Studies, Azim Premji University, Bangalore, India
Rob Slotow, School of Life Sciences, University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa and Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College, London, United Kingdom
Debra Roberts, School of Life Sciences, University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa and Sustainable and Resilient City Initiatives Unit, eThekwini Municipality, South Africa
Richard Boon, School of Life Sciences, University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa and Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department, eThekwini Municipality, South Africa
Sean O’Donoghue, School of Life Sciences, University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa and Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department, eThekwini Municipality, South Africa
Errol Douwes, School of Life Sciences, University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa and Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department, eThekwini Municipality, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: The KwaZulu-Natal Sandstone Sourveld (KZNSS) Research Programme is part of a collaborative, transdisciplinary research partnership between the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the eThekwini Municipality (EM), aimed at bridging the science-policy-practice gap. The research programme focuses on generating knowledge and capacity to support local land-use planning, management and policy development related to biodiversity and climate change issues.
Objectives: The objectives were (1) to describe how a continuous reflective evaluation approach helped to better understand the research programme and its outcomes; and (2) to assess research outputs and outcomes, relevance of outcomes to the requirements of EM, and participants’ perceptions of the programme (both the outcomes and the process).
Methods: The evaluation took a mixed methods approach, combining various quantitative and qualitative methods such as anonymous individual questionnaires, reflective exercises and group reflections.
Results: The KZNSS programme was successful in capacity building and establishing a long-term partnership, but had lower scientific publication output and practice uptake than expected. Participants’ perceptions changed over time, with a decrease in the perceived success of addressing tangible research outcomes, and an increase in the perceived success of collaborative relationships in the partnership.
Conclusion: Transdisciplinary partnerships can be a means of integrating research into policy and practice through knowledge exchange. An important lesson in the early stages of this partnership was to pay attention to the process and not only the outputs. The study highlights the importance of continuous participatory reflection and evaluation in such partnerships.

Keywords

evaluation; knowledge co-generation; partnerships; transdisciplinary research; science-policy-practice; reflection; urban biodiversity conservation

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