Box 2.2 Considerations on whom to involve in the process
Regardless of the practical constraints, there are clear benefits to setting transparent criteria and clear rationalizations regarding the relationships between the real-world problem being addressed and who is involved in the transdisciplinary co-production process. By doing so, earlier decisions can be reviewed and altered when needed. Ideally, the recruiting of participants should be based on considerations of the broader context of the problem and what actors, perspectives, values, and decision-making it involves. These include reflections on the significance of one’s own as well as others’ views of the problem, and on whose interests should be served, what sources of power need to be included, what should count as relevant knowledge, and what should the consequences of the research be (Bammer, 2008; Herrero et al., 2019). At an early stage, however, the initiators of the research may only have a vague idea of who needs to be engaged to address the problem at hand, and it may be difficult to shake off preconceived ideas about the relevance of different expertise, or about who can affect or may be affected by the problem under study. Even with carefully designed standards for selecting team members, changes to the context of the research or in individual situations and work conditions, or new insights reached through the research process may change the roles and responsibilities of participants, result in reduced inputs or drop-outs, or justify engaging additional participants (Lang et al., 2012; Norris et al., 2016).
Based on Ulrich (2005), Bammer (2008) highlights four areas to consider when thinking about whom to involve in the collaboration (Figure 2.2). These areas are coupled with key questions to help set boundaries:
- The motivation for the collaboration: Whose interests are and ought to be served, what should the consequences of the research process be, and how should success be measured?
- The sources of power in the collaboration: Who can or should decide, and what conditions need or need not be in place for decision-makers?
- The sources of knowledge for the collaboration: What should count as relevant knowledge and what should be its role, who should be involved, who or what needs to be involved to guarantee real-life change?
- The sources of legitimation for the collaboration: Who should argue for those who are affected by the research but cannot speak for themselves, and how are those treated and related to in the research (Ulrich, 2005; Bammer, 2008)?
Given the role of the participants in co-production processes, it is important that decisions are, as much as possible, made explicitly and openly so that the sense of shared ownership and enthusiasm for continuing the process are maximized (Polk, 2015). Our experience in diverse settings shows that this helps to reduce subsequent losses of motivation and withdrawals.