Meaningful co-production: learning that inspires participants, harnesses collective wisdom and yields novel solutions

Grass collecting BW

Co-producing knowledge may harness collective wisdom and insights, creates synergies, enriches mutual understanding of problems (especially when these are complex), and promotes adoption and implementation of products. But this is not always the case: coproduction can sometimes frustrate participants and waste their time. This is because knowledge co-production requires special skills and commitment to be meaningful. In addition, tangible impacts are difficult to measure and the link between co-production processes and impacts is often hidden and only becomes apparent over time.


In this short note we use examples of our own co-production processes in South Africa to share a few lessons about meaningful co-production, and propose criteria to evaluate the productiveness of co-production. We use three examples of knowledge co-production, respectively aimed at understanding the role of fire in a forest-grassland mosaic on South Africa’s Wild Coast; identifying national priority areas for conserving freshwater systems; and building resilient watersheds in South Africa’s Garden Route.

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