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Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to share our experiences—as academics and professionals—in coproducing knowledge to improve urban development outcomes in the global South. The focus of the paper is on urban research and practice, a field in which academic work influences policy and programming, and professional knowledge (validated and certified by academic institutions) forms the basis for urban planning and management. Collaborative research coproduced with social movement activities highlights that four issues need to be addressed to establish more equitable relations. First, alternative theories of change about how research leads to social transformation must be recognised, even if they cannot be reconciled. Second, the contribution of social movement leaders to university teaching needs to be institutionalised. Third, the relative status of academics vis-à-vis non-academics must be interrogated and better understood. Fourth, the accountabilities of the researchers to the marginalised need to be established. We argue that academics are insufficiently self-critical about the power dynamics involved in knowledge production with social movements. And that long-term relations enable understandings to be built and some of these tensions to be alleviated. Our conclusion highlights the unequal power relations that under-pin these challenges and suggests some steps to address these inequalities and their negative consequences.

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... These experiences compose a collection of understandings and expertise ranging across several integration and implementation processes (Bammer, 2005). In the Latin American context, expertise comprises a plurality of skills and capabilities aimed at engaging with a multiplicity of marginalised and vulnerable societal actors (Hidalgo et al., 2018;Mitlin et al., 2020). ...
... In this collective means of knowledge production (Fals Borda, 1979), the interests of different societal actors are integrated to achieve common goals (Hidalgo, 2016). This includes assuming responsibilities towards marginalised groups (Mitlin et al., 2020) and negotiating differences in types and degrees of participation (Phillips et al., 2018;Tengö et al., 2017). A "reflexive sensitivity to emergence" pays "attention not just to processual matters, but also to the socio-culturally and temporally contingent content of the voices articulated in spaces" of co-production (Phillips and Napan, 2016, p. 840). ...
... Our framework seeks to re-signify research practices by (i) determining what was left behind and needs to be taken into account in the following research phases; (ii) bringing the implicit to the explicit, considering the tacit knowledge of integration and implementation processes (Pearce and Ejderyan, 2020); and (iii) managing the tensions of the dialogic process related to knowingthat, knowing-why and knowing-how (Mitchell et al., 2015;Mitlin et al., 2020). ...
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Several environmental, political, social and institutional factors have resulted in the heterogeneous and adaptive integration of knowledge, actors and methodologies in Latin America. Despite poor recognition and even a lack of research conditions, experiences involving different societal actors and types of collaboration have developed across the region. These experiences form a collection of integration and implementation processes not yet fully systematised in a way that serves other cases. This paper aims to contribute to the discussion of how expertise is defined in integration and implementation processes in Latin America. To re-signify collaborative practices in the region, a critical perspective is applied, and a heuristic framework is built that comprehends the ‘situated’ and relational dimensions of expertise. This framework is tested to study five cases from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay related to territorial planning, gender and knowledge, coastal management and the provision of climate services. These concepts are compared on the basis of the three dimensions comprising the framework—context, actors and methods —and the intersections among them. Applying a qualitative methodology and auto-ethnography, we identified the main features of situated expertise in Latin America, that is, engaging marginalised societal actors, fostering greater participation, acknowledging power imbalances, managing conflicts and contradicting perspectives, and directing an ethical-political engagement in the research process. As a result, situated expertise encompasses not only the situatedness of practices and processes, but also their political (and potentially transformative) dimensions in tracing power imbalances. This paper then argues that this situated aspect of expertise is relevant for conducting more context-sensitive integration and implementation processes in Latin America, thus contributing to the ethical-political dimension on how expertise is defined, embodied and enacted in vulnerable contexts.
... Genuine co-production of knowledge with local communities is time-consuming, requiring investments into trust and relationship building (Djenontin and Meadow, 2018). It also requires that community stakeholders have a real say in guiding the research direction and process in a way that challenges traditional power dynamics in scholarship and funding mechanisms (Djenontin and Meadow, 2018;Mitlin et al., 2020;Turnhout et al., 2020). However, such co-production of knowledge with local stakeholders will help to supplement and fill in gaps of invisibility that reliance on only secondary datasets may produce. ...
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Recent years have seen an increase in the use of secondary data in climate adaptation research. While these valuable datasets have proven to be powerful tools for studying the relationships between people and their environment, they also introduce unique oversights and forms of invisibility, which have the potential to become endemic in the climate adaptation literature. This is especially dangerous as it has the potential to introduce a double exposure where the individuals and groups most likely to be invisible to climate adaptation research using secondary datasets are also the most vulnerable to climate change. Building on significant literature on invisibility in survey data focused on hard-to-reach and under-sampled populations, we expand the idea of invisibility to all stages of the research process. We argue that invisibility goes beyond a need for more data. The production of invisibility is an active process in which vulnerable individuals and their experiences are made invisible during distinct phases of the research process and constitutes an injustice. We draw on examples from the specific subfield of environmental change and migration to show how projects using secondary data can produce novel forms of invisibility at each step of the project conception, design, and execution. In doing so, we hope to provide a framework for writing people, groups, and communities back into projects that use secondary data and help researchers and policymakers incorporate individuals into more equitable climate planning scenarios that “leave no one behind.”
... Specifically, they perceive the campamentos' inhabitants' proposal for incorporation into the formal city as a free-rider attitude, aimed to "skip the line" for the flawed Chilean social housing system process. For the strict Chilean neoliberal state, grassroot co-production of technical inputs are also perceived as remnants of a frowned-upon communitarianism, especially if they support struggles for broader socio-economic and spatial rights, such as the right to the city Mitlin et al., 2020). ...
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This short intervention argues that Eve Tuck and Wayne Yang's notion of an ethic of incommensurability might serve as the basis for rethinking the democratic function of the university in the context of calls to decolonialise geographical knowledge and higher education.
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A short and direct introduction sets out the context for this special section. After a brief sketch of each of the commentary pieces and how they fit together, the key question will then be posed: how are geographers now inserting themselves into these ongoing dynamics, and which particular aspects of the present moment are geography academics well-placed to address?
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Methodologies such as participatory, feminist, or co-produced research aim to democratise research practice. These kinds of methodologies are devised and embraced by activists as they work to shift the balance of power. Activists and researchers can be uneasy bedfellows, and trying to be both activist and researcher can lead to identity confusion and communication problems. Yet within democratic research practice, researchers and others are often required to enact multiple identities. This article will highlight some of the relationships between activism, research, identity and power. An account of an incident that occurred during a piece of co-produced activist evaluation research, which threatened to undermine that research, illustrates some of the relationships between the enactment of multiple identities and power imbalances in the practice of co-produced activist research. The theoretical work of Karen Barad is used as a lens to help elucidate the complexity of this phenomenon and identify what, and how, we can learn from such incidents.
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Approaches to engaged research, which do not just produce academic knowledge, but link with people and groups in society, have long intellectual roots. In recent years, however, for epistemological, practical and ethical reasons, interest in such approaches has gained ground. At the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) we seek to adopt an ‘engaged excellence’ approach to research. We have identified four pillars that support engaged excellence: high-quality research; co-construction of knowledge, mobilising impact-orientated evidence; and building enduring partnerships. This introduction interrogates this approach, deepening our understanding of what it means, whilst also acknowledging the challenges which it poses. It raises questions about who defines what good quality research is; how, why and who we co-construct knowledge with; what counts as impact; and how we build enduring partnerships. It also touches on some of the implications for both researchers themselves and the institutions through which we work.
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Enumerations of informal settlements undertaken by their own community organizations have become increasingly common. These help urban poor communities to mobilize knowledge about themselves – knowledge that is valuable for their own discussions, that helps develop better relations with local governments. This commentary discusses why it is important for communities to have the right to undertake their own research, and how this can become an irreversible force for stronger negotiations with those who see them as a burden, a blight or a vote bank.
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Grassroots organizations that have sought to scale up improvements to their urban neighbourhoods through engaging the state have found themselves drawn into relationships with professionals. The potentially negative consequences of such engagements have long been recognized. This paper explores the nature of relations between professionals and organizations of the urban poor, identifying and discussing associated relational tensions. It considers the ways in which one alliance of urban poor federations and support NGOs has responded to the challenge to build alternatives within professionalized mainstream urban development practice.
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This is the first book to review the effectiveness of different approaches to reducing urban poverty in the Global South. It describes and discusses the different ways in which national and local governments, international agencies and civil society organizations are seeking to reduce urban poverty. Different approaches are explored, for instance; market approaches, welfare, rights-based approaches and technical/professional support. The book also considers the roles of clientelism and of social movements. Case studies illustrate different approaches and explore their effectiveness. Reducing Urban Poverty in the Global South also analyses the poverty reduction strategies developed by organized low-income groups especially those living in informal settlements. It explains how they and the federations or networks they have formed have demonstrated new approaches that have challenged adverse political relations and negotiated more effective support. Local and national governments and international agencies can become far more effective at addressing urban poverty at scale by, as is proposed in this book, working with and supporting the urban poor and their organizations.
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This paper explores how professionals’ universal, reductionist and standardized views of poverty differ from those of the poor themselves. Poverty line thinking concerned with income-poverty and employment thinking concerned with jobs, project Northern concerns on the South, where the realities of the poor are local, diverse, often complex and dynamic. Examples illustrate how poor people’s criteria differ from those assumed for them by professionals. The paper also discusses neglected dimensions of deprivation including vulnerability, seasonality, powerlessness and humiliation. In the new understandings of poverty, wealth as an objective is replaced by wellbeing and “employment” in jobs by livelihood. The final sections argue for altruism and reversals to enable poor people to analyze and articulate their own needs, and they conclude with the implications for policy and practice of putting first the priorities of the poor.
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This paper describes the work of an innovative group of Southern NGOs and grassroots organizations. In order to achieve their empowerment objectives, the group has pioneered a methodology to root learning and knowledge creation within low-income urban communities themselves. Exchanges between communities of the urban poor have helped to spread skills, encourage solidarity and instil self-confidence. The discussion explains how and why this methodology has developed and how it addresses acknowledged difficulties within participatory methodologies. The discussion also elaborates on the benefits of community exchanges.
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University-community partnerships can be a realistic means of increasing resources for addressing community problems. However, expectations of partnerships are often so grand, and available resources so limited, that those who create partnerships may substitute fantasy about how partnerships will magically create abundant problem-solving resources for realistic analysis, organizing, planning, and funding. This article examines contrasts between the rhetoric and realities of the university, the community, and partnership with case material from the University of Maryland’s Urban Community Service Program partnership with a Southeast Baltimore education organization. The case highlights the importance of starting partnerships with definiteness about outcomes and resources but maintaining adaptability in process.
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Development studies is an uneasy discipline. It has a relatively short history that is linked particularly to decolonisation and the rise of overseas aid. It is associated almost exclusively with certain geographical locations and a political economy of resource transfer, rather than with a particular body of knowledge or theory It is thus founded on the very dichotomies it seeks to overcome - of North and South and the massive imbalances in access to resources that produce 'haves' and 'have-nots' in the knowledge economy. This article draws on discussions at the IDS40 Roundtables and conference to outline the key elements of a vision for the future role of development studies institutions which would begin to address these inequities and challenges.
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In many low-income cities, environmental problems in and around the home impose an enormous burden, particularly on women, children and the elderly. Practical strategies are needed to assist women in diminishing or transcending the environmental hazards associated with their traditional roles. This paper examines the gender dimension of local environmental management in Accra, relating this in turn to household wealth and the environmental hazards children face. It provides a qualitative account of the gender division of labor in and around the home and a quantitative analysis of some of the environmental risks that women and children are exposed to, and their possible health effects. The results also help explain why women have reason to be skeptical of government-led improvement efforts, particularly in those areas where they ought to benefit most from better conditions.
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In recent years a growing number of Dutch municipalities have established relations with local governments in the countries of migration to the Netherlands (e.g. Turkey, Suriname and Morocco). In addition to strengthening local governance and improving service delivery in the partner municipalities, Dutch local governments aim to contribute to the integration of citizens of migrant origin within their municipality, and/or further economic interests. Since transnational ties already exist between Dutch citizens and the municipalities' partner countries, (new) partners in the twinning relation inactive in international cooperation earlier, can be involved. In the literature on city-to-city partnerships, mutuality is considered an aim of most municipalities but ‘benefits’ for municipalities in the North remain unclear in practice, and the notion of mutuality is generally not explicit. This paper raises the questions whether cooperation has led to new partnerships, whether the focus on migrant countries has led to changes in the types of knowledge exchanged, the forms and processes through which this happens, and whether it has produced knowledge and policy approaches based on mutuality. Types of knowledge range from tacit knowledge, embedded knowledge based on experience (technical/cultural), and more ‘universally codified’ knowledge. The paper is based on interviews among Dutch municipalities carried out from February–August 2007. It concludes with a framework for researching city-to-city partnerships, including both locations in the partnership.