Equitable transformation, transforming equality: A grounded theory study on the role of equality and equity in research and policies for transformative change
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This study aimed to explore the role that equality and equity plays in transformations research, and how it can be integrated further by asking the research question: How are the issues of equality and equity incorporated into the Transformative Innovation Policy conceptual framework and practice, and what lessons can be derived from it? Through working in collaboration with the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium, data was collected on how researchers perceived and implemented equality and equity in their policy work. Utilizing the equality and equity framework developed by McDermott et al. (2013) and Leach et al. (2018) in studies of socio-ecological systems, the concepts were applied to TIP, and by extension TIP’s conceptual grounding, socio-technical systems (Geels, 2002). Through secondary data sources on policy experiments and interviews with researchers in TIPC, it was found that equality and equity was integral to TIP, although in an implicit manner through procedural mechanisms such as co-creation and mutual learning. A full axial coding paradigm was created through the GT analysis, providing an abstracted, conceptual ‘map’ of the work of TIPC. This axial coding paradigm bridges the two conceptual frameworks, and presents an overarching description of the work of TIP practitioners. It was found that procedural equality was strongly emphasised already in the TIP framework, but recognitional equality played a barrier in interactions on both an individual level and a structural level. Distributional equality was framed as a distribution of knowledge resources, which highlighted the frictions between academics and on-the-ground practitioners. From the coding paradigm, certain values emphasised and strategies utilized by TIPC were emblematic of achieving equality: openness, capacity building, co-creation, consensus building, participation, network building, commitment to non-hierarchy, commitment to mutual learning and reflexivity, development of a shared narrative. Beyond the framework used, the exploratory research identified a common thread which formed the ‘theory developed’ through the GT analysis: the underlying role of epistemic equality in transformations research. Relating to knowledge, who possesses the knowledge, and what knowledge is seen as legitimate, the role of epistemic (in)equality affected the interactions researchers had with practitioners based on their position within the Global North-South divide. Recommendations based on these findings include implementing guiding principles to examine the role of epistemic equality within deliberative methods such as co-creation, and continuing to foster reflexive practices within the research community and while engaging with practitioners and stakeholders.
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