Controversy allows the design and testing of projects and solutions that integrate a plurality of points of view, demands, and expectations. This ''taking into account,'' which takes place through negotiations and successive compromises, unleashes a process of learning (Callon et al. 2001).
The production of knowledge in the water sector has tended towards increased institutionalisation over the past 20 years. World Water Forums have been a testament to a trend where international organisations, aid agencies and development banks have largely captured and shaped the agenda. The globalisation of the conferences and literature on water has had positive consequences, including better exchange of information and experience and the emergence of a common language to frame and address common water challenges. At the same time, it is widely felt that topics tend to be repetitive, formats remain conventional and debates are institutionalised if not sanitised. Contentious issues are omitted; policy suggestions are generalised and lack context; and underlying interests and ideologies go unquestioned. In a word, creativity and diversity have been sacrificed.
The editors of Water Alternatives feel that opening a space for creative and passionate, yet principled and respectful, debates can help to widen the points of view expressed, challenge common wisdom and inspire alternative thinking. In line with our manifesto, we believe that greater interaction between decision-makers, water practitioners, researchers and civil society has the potential to enrich debate and practice, and challenge conventional wisdom to stimulate creative thinking.
Launching the forum
Water Alternatives is launching Water Dissensus – A Water Alternatives Forum as a new feature of WaA platform. The intention is to generate debate and new ideas, and explore areas of dispute and controversy more easily than conventional papers. Existing dissensus, or antagonistic values and points of view, can be turned into a learning opportunity for the benefit of all by giving way to reasoned debates that have the potential both to further understanding of complex water issues and to generate new ideas.
The forum is intended to enhance the role of Water Alternatives as a space for critical discussion about water issues and to allow more 'passionate' and personal discussion. It will publish short, well-thought-out opinion pieces (500-1000 words) on critical water management, governance or policy issues. We expect posts to be well reasoned (with no unsupported assertions), and submissions should be worded so as to generate discussion, rather than merely inform.
Articles will be posted on the fifteenth of each month and exchanges moderated for a period limited to three weeks after publication, with the assistance of the Forum editor, Doug Merrey. The forum is open to all Water Alternatives readers, including researchers, students, and water-management policymakers and practitioners.
The forum and journal editors of Water Alternatives invite you to contribute a post. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org