Keywords: learning alliances, action research, urban water management, water governance, innovation, cross–sectoral partnerships, strategic alliances, decision making, UK, United Kingdom, change mechanisms
Researchers as actors in urban water governance? Perspectives on learning alliances as an innovative mechanism for change
Learning alliances (LA) are an innovative researcher–initiated intervention in urban water management. Their design implies that researchers actively engage with urban water management and governance issues. Researchers' views and their role in LA are considered alongside views from 'city stakeholders'. Findings from a series of interviews and observations conducted during the course of the Switch project are analysed using key elements of an effective engagement process derived from literature on cross–sectoral partnerships and strategic alliances. The narrative moves through the design and conceptualisation of the LA approach at the start of the project to the formation and operation of city LAs, in the context of decision–making relating to urban water management. The interviews indicated not only acceptance of the LA concept in the context of the need for technical innovation, but also that many actors see the potential for LA to engage with water governance issues. The contribution concludes with a summary of the challenges and lessons from the Switch experience of implementing the LA concept for more integrated urban water management.