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Initial involvement of stakeholders in transdisciplinary projects - exploring issues of expectations, roles and inclusion

Conference contribution
Authors Helena Kraff
Eva Maria Jernsand
Lillian Omondi
Emma Björner
Sayaka Osanami Törngren
Published in International Transdisciplinarity Conference 2019 - Joining forces for change, Gothenburg 10-13 September
Publication year 2019
Published at Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI)
School of Design and Crafts
Centre for Tourism
Department of Business Administration, Marketing Group
Mistra Urban Futures
Language en
Keywords Complexities, expectations, roles, inclusion, initial involvement
Subject categories International Migration and Ethnic Relations, Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology), Design, Business Administration


This paper identifies complexities of transdisciplinary research, focusing on the initial involvement of stakeholders early on in the process, and the pressures that highly collaborative environments give rise to. The initiation and launch of a transdisciplinary project exploring the role of tourism in multicultural societies serves as an illustrative example of these pressures. The combination of two fields, tourism and migration studies, which are normally situated far apart from each other, implies a need for a highly diversified constellation of project actors. This, and the aim of transdisciplinary research to be transformative, raise expectations and create tensions between the involved public, private, civil and academic actors. The purpose of this paper is to identify central complexities and tensions in the initial stages of projects that hinder prosperous, functional and robust collaboration. Challenges in transdisciplinary projects are to a large extent closely connected the specificity of the particular context and actor constellation. However, previous research, the empirical example, and the authors experience of engaging in such projects in numerous settings, illustrate how issues of expectations, language, roles, inclusion and exclusion, agency and power dynamics tend to emerge, although in different forms, independent of project type. Participatory observations during the project launch of the empirical example, where 35 stakeholders participated, show how participants saw opportunities in experimenting with the intersection between tourism and multiculturalism and envisaged synergy effects. However, the multidimensional nature of both concepts presented challenges in finding a common understanding and drawing meaning. This therefore meant that expectations on the outcome of the project varied greatly, ranging from highly academic, which can influence a broader audience, to localized practical results, such as products, tools and methods for inclusion and successful development. The large number of stakeholders also meant that expectations exceeded the range of case studies, as well as organisations and individuals possible to involve and consider. Extreme efforts would need to be taken to keep contact with all proposed partners. This connects to the language barrier that derives in collaborative projects, where actors find it hard to understand each other’s disciplinary expressions. During the launch, issues of language also emerged in connection to its international and multicultural nature, which exemplified how language preludes notions of inclusion and exclusion. The launch was held in Swedish since all present public and private partners were Swedish. This did however exclude one of the international researchers in the project from most parts of the presentations and discussions. Also, concerns were raised that an important stakeholder group, newly arrived immigrants, whom may have difficulties with both Swedish and English, were fully excluded from the launch. Research is traditionally the responsibility of universities and hence, many stakeholders coming into transdisciplinary projects experience role confusion, where they are not clear on what they are expected to contribute with or deliver. Some stakeholders may also take passive roles and sit back, with expectations of a report once the project is finalized. To conclude, the multifaceted nature of transdisciplinary projects enables you to view issues from a multitude of perspectives, providing possibilities to reach desired outcomes relevant for all stakeholders. Having a project launch enables you to recognize the perspectives of stakeholders which often are overlooked. A launch is however not enough, and it is imperative to provide platforms to continue dialoguing on the pertinent issues and tensions that come to the surface during initial stages of a project.

Page Manager: Webmaster|Last update: 9/11/2012

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