Collaborative Knowledge Creation: Interrogating Processes and Patterns


Venue: Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

The processes of conducting research, collecting evidence for advocacy and framing and generating knowledge have traditionally remained within rigid and hierarchical forms of scholarship, across both science and social science. Such processes are typically contained within institutional settings that foster top-down research and processes of exclusion. However, in recent years, there has been a growing interest and strong efforts to conceptualize, and practice forms of research and knowledge-building which rely on community processes, deliberation, collaboration, transformation and grassroots participation. The main idea is to flip the dominant script to ensure a truly collaborative and enriching process of producing knowledge and action. One of the common core aims of these efforts is to redefine the paradigm of knowledge building and sharing to truly involve all stakeholders in the research process and outcomes. Such forms of research commit to and prioritize the knowledge-producers, those using the knowledge and those whose lives will be influenced by the use of this knowledge, simultaneously.

These forms of knowledge building and sharing have proved versatile and adaptable, having been applied to the social sector (for eg., encompassing gender, disability, health, sustainable livelihoods, agriculture, education,) the fields of art and craft (new material, designs and technology informing traditional forms) and cultural forms (such as participatory theatre). Inclusive and collaborative knowledge-building and research have also found a place within mainstream policy and research institutions as well as within the corporate and market spheres. These varied knowledge-building processes and methodologies have been classified as participatory, deliberative, action, facilitative, community-based, inclusive, dialogical, co-productive, emancipatory, affirmative enquiry, rights-based, democratic and protagonistic research. Across this proliferation of approaches, methods and perspectives, there is a high degree of cross-fertilization and convergence. There is much to be examined, explored and understood in these endeavours.

Space to Share

Challenges to conducting such research or co-creation of knowledge involve thinking more deeply about how to ensure a truly inclusive space free of power imbalance and marginalisation, how to ensure robust and reliable research, how to balance locally specific knowledge with the imperative of generalizable findings, and how to ensure a high quality of participant engagement. Accordingly, TISS along with CORO is organizing a three day workshop from 26 - 28 February 2018 to explore some of the critical questions emerging in thisarena, by bringing together practitioners, academics and participants who can share their experiences and methodological insights with regard to collective grassroots knowledge creation and transformation. One of the broad aims of such a workshop is to create an ecosystem of allies and grassroots agents of transformation across India to pioneer collective knowledge creation and initiate, enact and sustain societal transformation from the grassroots.

Key Themes

The following key themes have been identified for exploration in the workshop:

  1. Interrogating the Knowledge Building Process
    • How can the processes of knowledge building be adapted to different contexts and communities?
    • How can equal value be afforded in practice to the knowledge held by those variously engaged in holding, gathering and producing knowledge?
    • How can self-reflexivity and iterative learning be applied across the various stages of gathering and producing knowledge?
    • What kind of environment and facilitation techniques can best foster mutual and inclusive learning and true dialogue?
    • What are the limitations of conducting such research in practice, and how can they best be overcome?
    • What approaches and methodological tools are best suited to approaching such forms of research?
  2. Critical Convergence of Grassroots and Higher Education through Research
    • What can ensure that stakeholders with privilege do not inadvertently speak for participants who are marginalized and underprivileged?
    • What is the potential of such forms of research in strengthening the cultural, social and political capital of marginalized or underprivileged communities?
    • How can academics and practitioners come together to break hierarchical barriers and create spaces for inclusive research?
    • What strategies can offset exclusionary elements and power imbalance within the research process?
    • How can existing power relationships be addressed to become more equitable and inclusive at each stage of the research process?
    • How can the realities of grassroots knowledge-building be made compatible with the utopian ideals of participatory research?
  3. Pathway for Advocacy and Empowerment
    • Do these processes of knowledge-building lead to transformation at the individual and group level - what are the differences between the two?
    • What is the emancipatory potential of conducting such research or being involved in a participatory initiative?
    • What are the effects of such research processes on the reality of its participants?
    • Can critical engagement by marginalised communities and individuals lead to a sense of ownership, confidence, empowerment and self-reflexivity, and how?

Workshop Format

The workshop is designed as an integral transformative journey of knowledge creation. Instead of conventional speeches and powerpoint presentations, participants are expected to share personal experiences of knowledge creation and transformation, the limitations and obstacles faced during this process, the impact of conducting such research and the corresponding impact of transformation, advocacy or engagement both at the individual and community level. Thus, the workshop seeks to offer a transformative and collaborative experience itself, relying on the active contribution and experiential learning opportunities offered by its participants and an interactive and creative presentation format.

Concept Notes & Abstracts

Organisations and individuals interested in participating and presenting their work/experience are encouraged to write a concept note or an abstract of about 500 words detailing the initiative/work/experience and indicating to which sub-theme it may form part of. The note can either be in English or Hindi, however, the presentation can be in a vernacular language

Please fill the participation form and submit. Click ​here to fill the form.

Please send your concept note/ abstract as an email to ​ by ​ 31​st January 2018​ . Confirmations by email will be sent by 5 ​ ​ th​ February 2018.

The workshop will take place on ​ 26​th​ - 28​th February 2018 at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences campus in Mumbai. Outstation participants will be provided accommodation in the Institute guesthouse based on the availability and early confirmations. Domestic Travel support can be provided only for a limited number.

Key Organisers and Supporters:

  Dr. Lakshmi Lingam​, Professor, TISS School of Media and Cultural Studies, will be co-anchoring the workshop. Dr. Lingam is a well-known gender specialist and three-time Fulbright holder. Her research interests range from exploring gender issues in development and macroeconomic policies; urban and rural poverty and women's livelihoods; women’s and other social movements; reproductive rights; and exploring issues of culture, women's identity and agency.

Ms. Sujata Khandekar​ , Founder-Director, CORO, Mumbai will also be co-anchoring the workshop. Sujata has received a MacArthur
Fellowship, authored a book in Marathi, and represented CORO’s community-related approach in national and international forums. She is currently pursuing her PhD, ‘Meanings of Women Empowerment,’ on collective knowledge building from the grassroots.

  Dr. Alexander Schieffer​ , who co-founded the TRANS4M Center for Integral Development (, headquartered in Geneva, focuses on transformational education and research for innovation. Dr. Schieffer is an engaged and dynamic professor, and teaches management, economics and development at universities around the world.
  Dr. Rama Mani​ is a Peace and Security Specialist, Poet and Performance Artist. She is the founder of the Theater of Transformation Academy as well as a Senior Research Associate of the University of Oxford’s Center for International Studies, a Councilor of the World Future Council, and Co-Founder of Rising Women Rising World.