Visiting researcher from Switzerland, PhD student Nora Buletti-Mitchell

King’s Water welcomes Nora Buletti, who is joining us from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. She will be collaborating with us and finalising her PhD research on participatory processes for watercourse management in Switzerland. As part of a joint research project with the University of Lausanne, and mandated by the Swiss Government’s Federal Office for the Environment, Nora specifically evaluates the effect of the introduction of subsidies for participation in projects of watercourses management. In collaboration with her colleagues of the research project, she also drafted principles to encourage the practice of participation. In her thesis, she is exploring the theoretical concepts necessary to develop a critical approach to analyse institutionalised public participation, and more precisely the role of experts in these processes. Her PhD project therefore includes two dimensions: an applied one and a theoretically based analysis. Nora principally refers to Foucault’s concept of governmentality to analyse dynamics of exclusion and control within the participatory approaches taking place in specific context of river course management projects.

Nora has been at the University of Fribourg since her Bachelor’s degree in Geography, followed by an Msc in Human Geography. She has also been undertaking supervision and teaching of methodological practical courses in human geography, and been a tutor at the Environmental Sciences section. She chose to come to King’s College London to benefit from inputs from her host Dr. Alex Loftus, as well as other PhD students in the department. Her aim is to consolidate her theoretical framework, exploring advantages and limits, as well as creating long-lasting academic relationships for her academic career.

She is supervised by Prof. Olivier Graefe at the University of Fribourg and Dr. Olivier Ejderyan at ETH Zurich, and is working in close collaboration with Dr. Alex Loftus at King’s College London.

 

Nora’s three water words:

Institutionalized public participation

Governmentality

Exclusion

Using documentaries for research and public engagement

Lilongwe Water Works? A research documentary on the dynamics of water provisioning and access in informal settlements

Dr. Maria Rusca – a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Research Fellow and Lecturer in Water and Development at our Geography Department at King’s College London – is the Principal Investigator of “Investigating Natural, Historical and Institutional Transformations in Cities (INHAbIT Cities)”, aiming at improving understandings of the dynamics of basic service provision in urban and suburban spaces in the global South. The project particularly investigates the relation between urban infrastructures, distribution of everyday risks and uneven conditions of access to water in Maputo (Mozambique) and Lilongwe (Malawi).

Maria believes that strong connection and commitment to a cause comes with inspiring stories; she has thus decided to engage with larger non-academic audiences and policy makers by disseminating INHAbIT’s research findings through a short documentary.  “Lilongwe Water Works?” tells the stories of women accessing or providing water where the formal utility provides water through public water kiosks (see picture).

In addition to using her documentary intitled “Lilongwe Water Works?” as part of the education curriculum of Water and Development at King’s College London, and Water Governance at IHE Delft, Maria returned to Lilongwe a few weeks ago to share her findings at various events she organised.

The documentary was projected at the Water User Association in one of the informal settlements, where some community members, water users, and contributors to the documentary were able to discover and discuss the final output; the same was done in an informal settlement’s school; another projection was done at the Lingadzi Hotel, with water stakeholders (the World Bank, UNICEF, the Ministry of Water, Lilongwe Water Board, the Economic Justice Network, Lilongwe City Council, WASAMA) and journalists (Zodiac, Reuters, AFP, Free Expression institute, Times Group, Capital Radio, Nyasa Times).

The most impressive moment for Maria was to see how the documentary was able to raise debates and even confrontations in ways she had never experienced before. During these debates, concerns were raised about the role of Water Users Associations: while on the one hand they are considered to be useful in ensuring water supply, they are also causing water to low-income areas to become increasingly expensive and often unaffordable (see referenced papers at the end of the post).

To watch the documentary:

WATCH ON VIMEOhttps://vimeo.com/240647554

DIRECTOR: Maria Rusca

YEAR: 2017

SYNOPSIS: The water utility in Lilongwe, capital city of Malawi, serves people living in low-income neighbourhoods through a system of water kiosks. The kiosks work like shops, which opening hours when people can go buy 20 litre buckets of water. This documentary tells the stories of the women and men that access water through the kiosks and those who are involved in running them. Their stories reveal both the successes and the failures of providing water through kiosks and call us to question whether this system can ensure the human right to water to the residents of Lilongwe’s peripheries and to others elsewhere in the world.

PRODUCER: Whales That Fly and Hyphen Media

FUNDING: This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 656738

 

For related peer-reviewed papers:

  1. Tiwale S., Rusca M., Zwarteveen M., The power of pipes: mapping urban water inequities through the material properties of networked water infrastructures. The case of Lilongwe, Malawi, Water Alternatives, Water Alternatives 11(2): 314-335.
  2. Rusca, M., Schwartz K., Hadzovic, L., Ahlers R., (2015), Adapting Generic Models through Bricolage: Elite Capture of Water Users Associations in Peri-urban Lilongwe, European Journal of Development Research, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 777–792. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1057/ejdr.2014.58
  1. Rusca M., Alda Vidal C., Hordijk M., Kral N., Bathing without water, and other stories of everyday hygiene practices and risk perception in urban low-income areas: the case of Lilongwe, Malawi, Environment and Urbanisation, doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0956247817700291
  2. Alda Vidal C., Kooy M., Rusca M., (2018) Mapping operation and maintenance: an everyday urbanism analysis of inequalities within piped water supply in Lilongwe, Malawi,Urban Geography, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp. 104- 121 doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/02723638.2017.1292664
  3. Rusca M. and Schwartz K., (2018) The Paradox of Cost Recovery in Heterogeneous Municipal Water Supply Systems: Ensuring Inclusiveness or Exacerbating Inequalities?Habitat International, doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.habitatint.2017.03.002
  4. Sarpong Boakye-Ansah A., Ferrero G., Rusca M and van der Zaag P., (2016) Inequalities in microbial contamination of drinking water, supplies in urban areas: the case of Lilongwe, Malawi, Journal of Water and Health, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp. 851-863, doi: 10.2166/wh.2016.258 

For related blogs:

Are we paying enough attention to water quality? https://flows.hypotheses.org/686

Bathing without water https://flows.hypotheses.org/659

22 Reasons why collaborations fail: Lessons from water innovation research

New Research Output by Dr. James Porter: 22 Reasons why collaborations fail: Lessons from water innovation research

Research highlights:

  • Bold and inventive solutions are urgently needed to safeguard the future use of water.
  • Collaborative-innovations are increasingly championed but it’s often unclear what influences the success (or failure) of these efforts.
  • Using an international systematic literature review of empirical studies, we identify 22 key themes.
  • Yet the importance attributed to each theme, agreement amongst the studies reviewed, and compatibility of the themes, varies considerably.
  • We caution against the uncritical use of different themes and call on researchers and practitioners to recognise the darker side of water collaboration.

Recommended reference: Porter, J.J.; Birdi, K. (2018) 22 Reasons why collaborations fail: Lessons from water innovation research, Environmental Science & Policy, 89, 100-108.

The paper is freely available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2018.07.004

This research is first of a series of outputs produced as part of the Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPSRC) TWENTY65 – Tailored Water Solutions for Positive Impact – Grand Challenge programme. The next research outputs will critically examine the themes identified here by comparing them with the first-hand experiences of those working in the UK water sector (e.g. water companies, suppliers, regulatory bodies, and research institutions).

Abstract: Bold and inventive solutions are urgently needed to safeguard the future use of water. In response, collaborative-innovation is increasingly championed. If stakeholders including water utilities, supply-chain companies, research institutions and local communities work together, share their experiences and pool ideas, meaningful change could happen, it’s argued. But effective collaboration is far from easy. For every incentive that drives collaboration forward, another barrier blocks its path. Whilst the literature offers many possible factors that influence the success (or failure) of collaborative-innovations, it remains unclear which factors are most important, where the highest agreement and disagreement exists, and if accommodating one factor creates problems for another. This is important because its not always practical, nor necessary, to apply everything from the academic literature. In this paper, we report findings from an international systematic literature review that brings together a range of studies that cross the water collaboration and water innovation divide. We identify 22 broad themes that are spread (unevenly) across the entire collaborative-innovation process; highlight how the level of attention given to each theme varies greatly; and where disagreement exists. Our research provides practical insights on how to create more effective collaborative-innovations in water and where future research should be directed.