Last week was the Research Workshop and Colloquium – my favorite week in the year! The first three days is about preparing those exiting our course-work Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Development (PgDip-SD) for entry into the Mphil in SD, which is about writing a research-based thesis. This transition is a big deal because it means moving from a very structured learning environment that locks students into an institutionally managed learning process, to a self-managed learning environment where students have to be self-directed and more self-motivated. We introduce them to various research methodologies (grounded theory, qualitative and quantitative methods, literature reviews, etc), including our own brand of ‘transdisciplinary’ transformative research. They then ‘pitch’ their proposals to the group and an academic panel, and receive on-the-spot feedback. For most, this is very challenging. Based on this feedback they must write up their detailed research proposals for admission into the Mphil. Then during the last 2 days (Thursday and Friday) those who have completed their Mphil research projects do formal ‘conference style’ presentations for 20-30 mins followed by discussion and comments from supervisors. The purpose is to expose those starting their research journeys to those who have finished. This peer-to-peer learning is far more effective than formal presentations on methodologies by academic staff. Those who have completed are able to reveal how different the end product is from the original proposal, the agonies and ecstasies of field work, and the huge challenge aligning theory, methodology, methods and empirical findings. Supervisors are then given a chance to reflect on the progress on made by the student, and the significance of the research. Those academic staff who have heard these presentations each year were particularly impressed by the high quality of the research output this year, and the effective presentations. The complete research that was presented included the following:
Siraj Jardine: Exploring the role of music in fostering resilience in transformative space toward improved ecosystem stewardship: a case study of teh Reforest Fest
Erich Rickens: A critical analysis of the discursive strategies for circulating climate change denial
Sharne Bloem: Assessing the sustainable infrastructure of a low carbon community: case study of the Lynedoch ecovillage
Sonya Samson: Exploring the role of visuals in sensemaking and sensegiving: a study of the Sustainable Development Goals in corporate South Africa
Therezah Achieng (from Kenya): Investigating land use change in the Eastern Cape as a regime shift
Ray Swilling: Exploring the Sino-Africa Relationship: Investigating Chinese investment and governance regimes in the context of oil discoveries in Uganda’s Albertine Rift System [And yes, he is my son – and I’m such a proud father]
Kyle Swartz: Addressing community energy challenges with utility-scale renewables: a case study of the Hopefield Wind Farm
Adele Strydom: Understanding household energy metabolism in the city of Cape Town
Mersha Zeleke (from Ethiopia): The role of traditional ecological governance systems and legal protection of Sacred Natural Sites (SNS) to enhance community wellbeing and resilience in Bale, Ethiopia
Robyn Foley: Exploring the intersects of State Capture, Neopatrimonialism, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution: A case study of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA-Gate) Crisis.
All the above will be deposited in Stellenbosch University thesis repository called SunScholar after they have been fully evaluated. They can all be found via the SunScholar site by latest February 2019.