Over the past fifteen years I have worked for and with a wide range of higher education and third sector organisations across the UK and Eastern and Southern Africa, predominantly on projects about climate change impacts and adaptation in food systems. In my research area I am compelled to engage critically with the challenging realities and histories of societal, environmental and global inequity. I have written about lack of representation for marginalised groups within the development of climate change adaptation strategies and the failure of international climate change political processes to recognise historical and colonial injustices.
Sadly, such inequities are all too often mirrored within the institutions and partnerships through which we generate and communicate new knowledge. Through my research career, I have been a part of, and undoubtedly contributed to, inequitable collaborations and I have come up against systemic and self-reinforcing barriers to equality in higher education. But I have also been inspired by innovative and passion-fueled efforts to subvert these barriers in an effort to ensure that different voices participate in, contribute to, and benefit from research and education, in a more equitable way. I have come to realise that knowledge equity is not just a laudable ambition, but is a perpetual and multifaceted challenge that we have a responsibility to continually confront in all aspects of our work.
At Leeds, we recently embarked on a large three-and-a-half year project called FoSTA-Health which focuses on assessing the environmental, human and animal health outcomes, and inequities, associated with ongoing transformations of our food systems. In the project we’re working with a wide variety of partners from higher education and research institutions, third sector organisations & policy advocacy and industry partners in Eastern and Southern Africa and Europe, some of whom I’ve built a relationship with over many years and others whom I’m collaborating with for the first time. In the project we have made a collective commitment to try to embed principles and practice of knowledge equity in all aspects of our governance, our partnership and team capacity building, our research design and conduct, and our outputs and communications. We have also committed to reflecting honestly and openly on our successes and failings, in the hope that there will be something to learn from the experience.
This blog will follow the project and its partnerships, documenting and discussing the challenges that we face and approaches that we take to confront the challenge of delivering greater knowledge equity. There will be blog post contributions from different members of the project team who will also look back on where the partnerships originated, how they have evolved, and what we have learnt from previous and associated activities. And we will also look forward, charting our hopes and aspirations for our partnerships, for our research and for knowledge equity more broadly, and discussing how these align with, and can be supported through, the Knowledge Equity Network.