Jane Burt and Jessica Wilson wrote a paper for the ALARA (Action Learning, Action Research Association) congress in 2015, based on lessons from the first Changing Practice course for SAWC activists. That paper has just been published in the ALARA congress proceedings, and the full text is available HERE. 

Here is an excerpt from the paper:

The social learning approach adopted in this project brought about change – and in some instances profound transformation – at multiple levels. Through a careful process of observation and reflection, the project provides insights into what changed within individuals, between people, at the level of structure and between people and the natural world. For example, when an activist researcher’s confidence was built through gaining a sense of identity based on the deep wisdom inherent in his African ancestry, he discovered agency within himself and was able to articulate concerns to government officials on the importance of including spiritual water users in Catchment Management Forums. This insight has catalysed ongoing conversation in his organisation and shifted their worldview to include a healing relationship between people and rivers.

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Finally, the course, like all courses based on an action learning ethos, is not expert driven but a dialogic space to introduce ideas of how to read the world which includes context, history and the importance of place (some of which are generated by researchers and other knowledge producers and shared with participants). This was a new experience for many of the participants. One participant, when interviewed about the course, commented, “Other courses like the “X” course someone stands in front of you and tells you what to do. Here we are asked to pull something out and up. It is challenging but it comes from in ourselves.” This sense of ownership of knowledge produced and used is the core vision of the course. The knowing that is generated (where generation of knowledge also means being able to draw on many knowledge systems in a meaningful way) belongs with the people who generate it and infiltrates their actions in the places and spaces within which they move. It is hoped that that by the end of this course, the learning and knowledge that is gained by the individuals and the collective will be an authentic expression of the people and landscapes out of which this learning and knowing emerged.


Changing practice: A course to support water activists in South Africa (PDF Download Available). Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319250623_Changing_practice_A_course_to_support_water_activists_in_South_Africa