I am a new Post-Doc who joined the team July 2018, as a social scientist with training in public health, medical anthropology, epidemiology and some training in ecology, with an understanding of conservation sciences. I would like to engage with a few projects during my time here and will need these to be collaboratively developed – so, am looking for extensive participation from those willing.
The first place where I see myself adding value is in creating an interactive hub for Future Water that brings together our various skills, projects, data. I see myself being a useful project manager for the creation of the online presence of the hub; it will host all the ‘evidence’ that we provide in our ‘evidence-based engagements’ including power-points from conferences, posters, papers, videos, etc. (a digital library of sorts) as well as host the Interactive Map, which will provide an easily accessible interface that can become a one-stop-shop for all southern African water related research, resources, NPO/NGOs, institutes, projects and collaborations or interest groups and committees. I have experience in developing and project managing such an interface from my past work in public health (see pactr.org) but do not have the technical skills for SQL database and website design (this is one place where I will need collaborators).
A second and related place that I see myself as valuable to the team is in the project I have envisioned developing. Playing on the idea that this project is aimed at “future” my project would work to engage young people in the discussions around valuations of water because they represent the future of those who will be engaging with the ramifications of our decisions around water. Borrowing from the concept of a Water Museum this project aims to develop and collaboratively create, with citizens of South Africa, an engaged water museum and interactive online map, as well as school-based, grade-appropriate lesson plans that communicate the research being done at the Future Water Institute. Drawing on Hastrup’s notion of waterworlds and acknowledging a myriad of stakeholders whose lives depend on water, the research emanating from this project will largely be iterative, participatory and centred on an ethic of mutually beneficial collaboration. The project will begin with schools, the researcher will begin by finding willing school teachers engaging in lessons related to water, water use, importance, relationship in the eco-system. The researcher will collaboratively develop, with willing teachers, grade appropriate discussions and workshops to explain the project’s intentions as part of and incorporated in lessons around water. While each lesson will be developed with the school teacher, the aim, from the projects’ perspective will be to prompt students to return home and discuss with their guardians their perspectives (perceptions, individual opinions, valuations) on water’s importance and access in their daily lives and record these. Students will be asked to submit a water sample (less than 10mls, due to current water crisis; in a bottle of their choice or in one provided; these samples along with the written discussion between parents and guardians will become the water museum) . . .each school, along with pictures of its samples and ‘testimonials’ about the water will populate a website . . .clustering these entries by school will help anonymize specific people and locations without removing context and relative socio-political contexts . . . Starting with one teacher, I hope to build an interactive collaborative snowballing of the projects . . Outputs will include 1. Lessons outlines by grade and subject that can be used at other schools; 2. Water Museum; 3. Online interactive water perceptions map; 4. Online central hub and resource for water-related research (at UCT and more widely by linking to all related groups throughout SA)
Finally, as you can see from the above, I am interested in created informed citizen scientists who feel confident in their expertise as people who value water. I want to work, in a participatory fashion to understand different ways in which people make use of, value and innovate around water in light of Cape Town’s ‘crisis.’ I have already begun to observe and informally discuss with different water users their purposes for water collection at springs, or the various places in the Southern Peninsula where people have created their own water access points in the mountains. This would neatly combine with the above two other projects but be more Cape Town specific and focus on participant observation that starts at these citizen-made water access points and expands outward from there as relationships and connections are made.
I know that some of these endeavours work well with projects that are in development or already started (Franschhoek, for example). I also have skills in developing participatory methods, or collaboratively facilitating engagements with citizens as researchers, and would offer that experience to others who might want to engage in research this way (for example, body maps).