Building Transdisciplinarity for Managing Complexity: Lessons from Indigenous Practice

By J. Marina Apgar, Alejandro Argumedo and Will Allen.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The most critical problems humanity faces today are complex problems, characterised by high levels of uncertainty, multiple perspectives and multiple interlinked processes from local to global scales. A good example of such a challenge is climate change. Traditional research inquiries with specialized experts are unable to make the connections required to manage complexity. Transdisciplinary approaches can help different stakeholder groups to share and use their knowledge and experience for problem focused inquiry. Facilitating transdisciplinarity requires good dialogue processes and the development of holistic frameworks. Through reflecting on participatory action research initiatives with the Kuna and Quechua indigenous peoples we show that indigenous societies have developed over time strong dialogue processes, and continue to link them to a holistic view of the world allowing them to manage complex societal problems. They provide opportunities for linking knowledge systems to allow innovative adaptive solutions to problems such as climate change that affect all of humanity. We offer a new approach to promoting transdisciplinarity from the Indigenous Peoples’ Climate Change initiative, starting with frameworks that recognise complexity and can facilitate dialogue.

Keywords: Transdisciplinarity, Complexity, Sustainability, Indigenous, Dialogue, Holistic Frameworks

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 4, Issue 5, pp.255-270. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.492MB).

J. Marina Apgar

PhD Candidate, Environment, Society and Design Division, Lincoln University, Christchurch, New Zealand

Main research interests are in self determined indigenous development processes, steming from years experience working in action research projects in Latin America. Currently finishing interdisciplinary PhD research looking at adaptive capacity of the Kuna indigenous peoples of Panama. Also collaborating with a global initiative of indigenous peoples climate change assessments, managed by an intersdisciplinary mutliethnic global steering committee.

Alejandro Argumedo

Director, Associacion ANDES, Cusco, Peru

Alejandro Argumedo, a Quechuan agronomist from Peru actively working on the ground and in international fora for the recognition of Indigenous peoples’ rights is the director of the Quechua-Aymara Association for Sustainable Livelihoods (ANDES) based in Cusco, Peru. ANDES works to protect indigenous knowledge and associated genetic resources and has been a pioneer in developing indigenous frameworks for ecosystem assessments, facilitating the Vilcanota indigenous sub-global assessment of the MA, and developed the Indigenous Biocultural Territories model that is currently being replicated across the world. He is also the founder of the Indigenous Peoples Biodiversity Network and is involved in numerous international indigenous and conservation fora. ANDES is the host organization for the IPCCA Secretariat and Alejandro is the Coordinator.

Dr. Will Allen

Researcher, Landcare Research, Lincoln, New Zealand

Will Allen is an engagement specialist with more than 15 years experience in natural resource management. He currently works for Landcare Research, a New Zealand Crown Research Institute. He has particular interests in the development of collaborative adaptive natural resource management approaches, along with the multistakeholder management information systems (MIS) and participatory monitoring and evaluation (PM&E) programs required to support these. His work experience includes regional experience with participatory approaches in Australasia, East Africa and the Pacific. Will also manages a portal called Learning for Sustainability - - which provides links to on-line resources for managing multi-stakeholder participation and engagement initiatives.


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