Chapter Outline

This chapter will go over the different aspects of what co-production of knowledge is and how it is used within a project’s development. The overall process of co-production is split up into different steps and each will be defined and then explained how it contributes to the development of the project. The relationship between co-production of knowledge and sustainability will also be discussed and use a case study as an example. This chapter will also look at the different benefits of this developmental technique and the challenges that are associated with co-production.


Co-production of knowledge is the creation of knowledge, information, or data through a shared research process that involves different levels and backgrounds of people. It is the second step in the transdisciplinary process and makes up for the bulk of how information is gathered and used for creating solutions. This process uses a variety of different stakeholders who represent all the various aspects within the project. These people, or groups of people, come from both academic and non-academic disciplines to jointly work together to create reliable information to be used for future solutions. By having a large group of people with different backgrounds of knowledge, information being produced addresses every aspect and factor needed to create an effective solution.

In most projects, co-production of knowledge is not used and instead follows a more linear path of bringing new information to the research group. The loading dock approach is one of the common ways that created knowledge is transferred from the research group to the project team. This means that research will be conducted by a select group of people and the final results will be given to the rest of the stakeholders without any further external input. This common approach is not efficient in creating useful data and results in creating unreliable information to then be used for a project. Just as the term says, it represents as if a truck is dropping off supplies and then leaving. This is a great representation because it shows how most of the time researchers come up with data and then display it for everyone else to use, but don’t look back to revise or edit the information they collected. There is also no input from the project team for the research being done. This makes it a challenge for everyone else who was not involved in the research because the information might not be as relevant or useful as if the rest of the stakeholders had input on the research being done.

The purpose of co-producing knowledge is to provide dependable information and data that can be useful and relevant in creating a solution to any complex problem. This approach gives everyone the ability to share their opinion and perspective which allows a broader range of knowledge to be brought to the table. Co-production allows everyone’s voice to be heard and makes people feel included within the process. It contributes to the creation of a specifically chosen group to identify a problem, produce the information needed to solve the problem, and then use this shared researched data to come up with a solution.

In having co-production present, the ability to connect with sustainability is relevant. The co- production of information allows for possible solutions to solving the complex problems integrated into sustainability science. In order to find solutions to these complex problems in sustainability science, there is great importance of stakeholder involvement and ideas from each level of expertise. Sustainability related issues are usually very complex due to the vast topics it covers. To combat this, co-production helps address each aspect of an issue by getting insight and necessary background knowledge from a range of different fields of study. This makes sure nothing is forgotten and everyone is able to provide their knowledge to the development of a solution.

Process of Co-Production

Co-production of knowledge involves different steps throughout the creation of useable information. It first involves gathering the necessary stakeholders to create research questions that address specific problems within the larger picture. These research questions have to be realistic and related to the overall problem the process is trying to solve. They also have to be continuously keeping in line with the goals of the research and project team. Although all stakeholders haveaccess to each other’s information, there could be different groups working on different research questions at any given time.

Once there are research questions that have been agreed upon, data collection is the next step to creating useful information. It is important that the data being recorded is relevant to the specific research questions and that the information collected is credible and accurate. Collecting data is done in many different ways. Different stakeholder groups can be involved in the process of obtaining the information and are usually working alongside or are at least in close contact with the rest of the stakeholders within the project. Citizen Science accurately represents this by involving different groups of people, such as local residents, into the process. This part of the co- production process is one of the important pieces in making sure that the whole process is credible and that information gathered is reliable to be further analyzed.

Once the raw data has been collected, researchers along with the other stakeholders will then interpret the information and analyze the results. This is when the whole group can start making conclusions about the information that was collected. These conclusions are what create knowledge and information which can then be used for creating solutions.

Fundamental Aspects of Co-production

One of the important aspects of a well implemented co-production phase for a project, is the inclusion of stakeholders throughout the entirety of producing the knowledge. This means that all stakeholders and everyone who is involved is able to be active and present throughout each step of production. This allows each stage of the progression to be seen by each of the different perspectives and groups working on the project.

Case Study:

One example of stakeholder involvement in a co-production process is seen in the territory of Nunavut, Canada. The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) created a program to help co-manage the narwhal population in five of the local communities. This species holds both a cultural and economic significance to the people of the area and this program was intended to protect this valuable resource from exploitation. NWMB and DFO helped manage the implementation of Inuit into the research groups and had the Inuit be part of the team working out in the field. This allowed the locals to voice their concerns and questions which became a part of what the research questions were focused on. Having the local people involved and part of the staff made sure more than one voice was heard within the project and brought the inuit into the data collection phase of the program. By incorporating local people to be part of the research process also allowed for a range of perspectives that would have been left out if this co-production method was not in place. By implementing citizens and other disciplines besides the main research group, it allows for a broad range of knowledge to be applied to the project. In return, having the local Inuit involved within the project team gave the project and both organizations more insight and specific knowledge that would have been disregarded if not for the co-production process. The project team was able to have the input of the local Inuit throughout each step of the co-production process and their insights were brought into the analyzation and interpretation of the data collected.



Without this shared process, information is usually created by a single group and then expected to be relevant and reliable for the everyone else to use and interpret. This loading dock approach can be harmful in some research projects by limiting the potential of what information can be gathered and can often result in unreliable information.

Challenges to Implementing a Co-productive Process

With many benefits to co-production, there can be challenges that arise throughout the process. Problems that could possibly occur include stakeholders meeting locations which can make it often difficult to gather together as a group, differences in power between stakeholder and stakeholder groups, and inclusion between all members within the group.

Having many different stakeholders in a co-productive process can present some difficulties. Problems related to this aspect of co-production happen when people in the group are from different areas. Having stakeholders from many different locations around the world can restrict the group from being able to regularly meet all at one time. In the restrictions of coming together, that will minimize the amount of communication between the stakeholders of the group. It is possible that when unable to meet collectively as a group, that there is the ability through technology and devices, but doing so doesn’t have as great of an affect. It takes time, money, and effort to collectively bring together all the necessary stakeholders for meetings. It is especially difficult because co-production requires numerous meetings of different stakeholder groups to address all the components of the project.

Differences in power can cause conflict inside a group of stakeholders. It is common for groups to revert to vertical power structures when attempting to work together. However, because multiple disciplines are involved in co-production, hierarchies actually create an impenetrable barrier between disciplines, which serves to hinder fruitful communication and knowledge co-production. Rather than a vertical, hierarchical form of collaboration, co-production requires a horizontal power structure where all stakeholder input is equal in value and abundance. Any leader in sustainability efforts must only play the role of facilitation of communication. With there being a hierarchy of power, people are unable to communicate out of their defined status group and slow the progression of development.

Another challenge that could occur in co-production is the inclusion of all members of the group. In order to have inclusion of members there needs to be trust between all individuals and groups. When trust is not present it is difficult for members of the group to feel comfortable giving their point of view on the topic. Not having trust also makes it difficult for people to speak up if they agree or disagree with ideas presented by group members. Without the trust and inclusion, it is difficult to ensure that everyone is comfortable and willing to make a successful effort. Trust is something that also takes a lot of time to build and can be time consuming.

There are many challenges to implementing a co-production method into the project, but with the right knowledge, tools, and people it can greatly improve the results and solution to a problem. Although avoiding the technique of co-producing knowledge can save time and effort in early stages of a project, it leads to larger problems and ineffective solutions down the road. Once implemented, the process of co-producing can be easy and efficient.

Benefits of Co-Production

Using a co-productive process has many benefits; for example, co-production brings together people directly impacted by the problem along with people who have the decision-making power to create useful information that can be used for solutions later on. It also brings together scientists and nonscientists to create information that represents both parties. People of many discipline specialties are able work together to provide data that incorporates a range of different backgrounds of previous knowledge. This allows for more in-depth knowledge which then leads to solutions to problems and addresses everything within the final solution.

In co-production, scientists and those who use the scientific research are involved in the entire process which eliminates the ineffective loading dock approach to these larger complex problems. Using the opinions and input of everyone allows for higher quality knowledge to be produced which then results in higher quality solutions to solving complex problems.

Co-production is a way of being inclusive of all groups and brings many different types of knowledge to the table. With successful communication, there is the ability to share different knowledgeable points. Having well adapted communication during the process allows for trust and education of other expertise inside the group of people. This helps bring different fields of study together and educates people on disciplines not in their direct range of study. In the end this enhances the data being produced by incorporating outside knowledge. This can also help to make sure the process has less aspects missing from it due to the help from all members of the whole group.

All of these benefits that stem from co-production of knowledge allow progression and advancement for the rest of the project. This reliable knowledge helps aid successful solutions in any given project. Having various ideas and suggestions in the creation of information phase can allow for the group to come to a sufficient solution for an existing problem or provide a more substantial, well-rounded solution than one that used a more linear, loading dock approach.

Chapter Summary

In this chapter, co-production was defined and described. With the basic understanding of knowledge in co-production, this chapter helps illustrate the benefits and challenges that arise when using the co-production of knowledge. Using co-production of knowledge within a group of people to solve complex problems allows for many different disciplines and knowledgeable people to give input on how to come up with solutions to these larger problems. This chapter summarized the important aspects of co-production and how it can be useful to projects in sustainability. Co- production is an important aspect of collaborative problem solving.


Comprehension Questions

  1. Why is co-production a good way of collecting knowledge? What are the benefits to using co-production?
  2. How do transdisciplinary research and co-production of knowledge go hand in hand? What are the similarities and differences between the two?
  3. What are some examples of different disciplines that can be involved in a co-production process?
  4. If co-production is not the chosen form of action, what kinds of conflict could occur in a problem solving process?


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