Department of Civil Environmental and Mechanical Engineering, University of Trento (Italy)
Institute of Environmental Planning, Leibniz Universität Hannover (Germany)
WATER UTILITIES AS KNOWLEDGE BROKERS?
Exploring practices of effective boundary work in watershed management for ecosystem services
Boundary work has been proposed as a promising approach for facilitating knowledge co-generation and application for sustainable development. However, little is known of how boundary work evolves over time, and which practices enhance real life implementation. The objective of this paper is to investigate how boundary work can facilitate knowledge co-generation, transfer and cooperative application in a case study of watershed management for ecosystem services in Fuhrberg, Germany. Building primarily on the differentiated concept of boundary work proposed by Clark and colleagues, we reconstruct three decades of transfer of scientific knowledge into action in the case study area.
Our empirical results suggest that scientific insights have been crucial for enlightenment, decision-support, and in negotiations between a water utility and stakeholders in Fuhrberg watershed management. With respect to enlightenment and decision-support effective interaction among knowledge users and producers has been timely achieved, resulting among other things in peer-reviewed publications, the utility's decision to buy more than 20.000 ha of land, or to covert coniferous to deciduous forests to protect groundwater. We attribute these successes to boundary work activities deployed by the water utility and ultimately its high institutional capacity. Yet, for decisions and negotiations with other stakeholders, knowledge transfer has rather emerged from the outcomes of prior boundary work in combination with a stepping up of cooperation between relevant actors and a supportive socio-ecological context in the form of ongoing social learning.
We conclude that the differentiated concept of boundary work can indeed well explain knowledge to action transfer and should be taken into consideration by water utilities in their efforts to implement ecosystem management objectives together with stakeholders. Further research is required to enhance the empirical knowledge base, and to practically evaluate the application of diverse boundary work strategies in practical case studies.
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