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Cooperation with stakeholders

In this article, Tobias Buser invites you to reflect and discuss important aspects for successful collaboration between different stakeholders.

Cooperation with stakeholders from a wide range of societal sectors is a central element of transdisciplinary research (TDR). Designing and conducting cooperation in a way that is meaningful for all partners in a transdisciplinary project is key for success, as these partners are knowledge carriers and have the power to implement the co-produced findings and strategies of the project. What aspects should we have in mind for good collaboration?

Meaningful collaboration has many facets. Boix-Mansilla et al. speak about ‘three different dimensions in interdisciplinary collaboration: cognitive, emotional, and interactional’ 1. In an ongoing project 2, we are aiming to shed light on the success factors for transdisciplinary collaboration between actors from the public and private sectors and scientists. For this purpose, we directly asked stakeholders that have been involved in at least one TDR project what they expected from the cooperation, what motivated them to participate in a TDR project, and what process elements they considered as particularly valuable. We would like to share first insights with you, which can help in designing and facilitating transdisciplinary processes.


  • Being engaged in a process that not only talks about co-production, but is really ‘walking the talk’, particularly:

(i) Being respected as an expert in their domain
(ii) Appreciating the different actor’s knowledge, enabling to make it heard
(iii) Enabling every partner to contribute, but not necessarily all in the same way
(iv) Working with the aspects brought to the table by the different actors

  • Enabling access to state-of-the-art knowledge
  • Results that are useful/concrete/broaden the horizon
  • Being part from the beginning/framing of the project
  • Flexibility of scientists, inclination towards real world challenges
  • Dealing carefully with the resources, especially with time of the partners

Motivations – why do stakeholders want to participate in TDR projects?

  • Topic of the project, if it addresses important, often strategic, questions that are relevant for the participant’s tasks or organisation
  • Tackling challenges/developments with higher complexity than usual tasks of the respective organisation
  • Getting to know other perspectives/reflecting own perspective with others
  • Co-production approaches seen as a value in itself – the right way to go in a democracy
  • Connecting with other actors in the field
  • Input from science to reflect own strategies

Process elements seen as particularly important and valuable

  • Interaction, deliberation, and learning platforms with physical meetings
  • Inspiration and reflection through other perspectives, knowledge, and experiences
  • Process and outputs that enable increasing the quality of own work
  • Process and outputs that enhance the scope of potential approaches and solutions
  • Capacity development and motivation of employees in own organisation and in the region
  • Creating and facilitating ‘arenas’, outside the usual political processes and linked to concrete challenges and projects

From your experience as a scientist engaging in a transdisciplinary project, what do you consider as particularly important when working with different stakeholders? Or, from your experience as actors from the public and private sectors or from civil society, what are your expectations, motivations, and preferences when collaborating with scientists?

Maybe some of you would like to share your thoughts in the comments section.

Author: Tobias Buser


1 Boix Mansilla, V., Lamont, M., & Sato, K. (2016). Shared Cognitive–Emotional–Interactional Platforms: Markers and Conditions for Successful Interdisciplinary Collaborations. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 41(4), 571–612.

2 Exploring stakeholders’ perspectives to improve transdisciplinary projects in urban development. A project within the COST Action INTREPID. Retrieved from (3 December 2019).

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