Accepted Paper:

Meaningful co-creation and collaboration: how high do the stakes have to be?  


Rebecca Freeth (Leuphana University)

Paper short abstract:

Do crises of legitimacy create high enough stakes for individuals to attempt the difficult work of meaningful co-creation? This paper considers collaborative experiences in South Africa and Germany and looks at conditions that fuel co-creation of knowledge towards more sustainable futures.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores micro practices of co-creation projects in South Africa and Germany through the eyes of an STS researcher who is both an implicated actor and embedded observer.

In South Africa, post-apartheid identity politics often serve as a basis for granting or questioning legitimacy. South Africans find themselves cast as il/legitimate because of their 'race', gender, generation, or class. Without legitimacy, one loses voice. In a relatively young democracy, voice matters. Within this large contextual frame, there is a fine-grained story of co-creating scenarios about the future of food. The scenarios exercise convened policy makers, activists, academics and business people from across the food chain. In the process of co-creating scenarios, participants were also trading legitimacy. Observation and interviews demonstrated that legitimacy was found by some and lost by others, (re)claimed and disclaimed. This was an example of high stakes collaboration, because of ever-present hunger and malnutrition, and because participants risked losing legitimacy for being co-opted through their engagement.

In Germany, there are more resources and less inequality, and democracy is largely taken for granted. There appears to be less at stake, even in the scientific field of sustainability. If co-creation of knowledge is a more difficult approach to research, and the stakes are lower, why collaborate? Legitimacy is one significant reason; the drive towards inter- and transdisciplinary research can be interpreted as responsive to a crisis of scientific legitimacy. What does this imply for meaningful co-creation for sustainability in Germany and other parts of north-west Europe?

Panel C21
Co-creation of legitimacy, legitimacy of co-creation - double remedy or double crisis?