A New Research Manager for Water Centred Knowledge
Dr Inga Jacobs is a newly appointed Research Manager at the WRC Water-Centred Knowledge unit. She is a political scientist by training and specialises in regional and international water governance in Africa, looking at cooperative governance in shared river basins in the Southern African and East African regions. This involves investigating shared river basins (such as the Nile, Orange-Senqu, Zambezi rivers), and the degree to which cooperative management strategies can be improved, institutional development strengthened and sustained, and understanding what shapes actor behaviour. By researching these areas, she hopes to incentivize social science perspectives in the water sector. Specifically, Inga investigates the principled content of transboundary cooperation (the politics of ‘soft law’), sustainable knowledge transfer in the water sector, the role of power in transboundary water governance, socio-cultural codes of conduct and their impact on the environment, inter-general learning and capacity building. She is also exploring cross-cutting areas such as the science-policy interface, the water-energy security nexus and the impact of climate change on environmental institutions. She is actively involved in the Young Water Professionals network, currently serving as YWP’s Global President 2010-2012 and on the International Water Association’s Board of Directors. She also co-founded the Forum for Young Scholars in Transboundary Water Governance, a WRC-funded collaborative and transdisciplinary exchange initiative for scholars interested in this field, and one which encourages the recognition and mutual respect of multiple perspectives.
Inga was born and bred in Cape Town, but spent nine years abroad completing her studies. Before joining the WRC, she was a senior researcher and transdisciplinary political scientist in the Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE) Operating Unit in the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). There, she managed the transboundary water governance portfolio, leading projects that investigated the role of water in regional development, and cooperative governance in shared river basins in the Southern and East African regions.
Inga has worked with the WRC on several occasions. With the help of WRC Consultancy funds, she has been able to establish the Young Scholars Forum (YSF) in Transboundary Water Governance, and link it to the Young Water Professionals in Southern Africa. YSF is an issue-driven, collaborative-exchange initiative by the Young Water Professionals (YWP) Gauteng Chapter, for young water professionals and students, and one which encourages the recognition and mutual respect of multiple perspectives. It is “by young people, for young people,” in that it aims to raise awareness and build capacity in transdisciplinarity in the water sector, and commits to addressing challenges that young water professionals face particularly. YSF hosts workshops/events and facilitates transdisciplinary collaborative work for students and young water professionals to grow their competence in water. Essentially, it is about incentivising social science in the water sector and bringing water onto the social science agenda for research and vice versa. (For more info: please refer to Water Wheel article: “The adventure of working together: Promoting transdiscplinarity between young water scientists” September/October 2010)
Amongst her contributions to the WRC is a project entitled ‘Investigation of water conservation in food value chains by beneficiaries of water allocation reform and land reform programmes in South Africa’ where she was a project leader. She has also worked as a project Team member under the project entitled Knowing ‘Caring, and Acting: Making Use of Socio- Cultural Perspectives to Understand and Improve Conservation’.
Inga completed her PhD degree in International Relations at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. Her doctoral thesis investigated norms and transboundary cooperation in the Orange-Senqu and Nile River basins. She also holds a Master of Arts (MA) cum laude in International Studies from the University of Stellenbosch, and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in International Relations from Grinnell College in the United States.
Inga further says “As a social scientist working in a natural and technical science dominated field, I see the value added that social scientists can provide, but I also see the myriad challenges facing social scientists working in the water sector. Social theory and established social science methodologies still receive limited application, and when its value is recognised, it is within the constraints of “servicing” natural science projects”.
According to Inga, traditionally, the technical and scientific communities have been called on to respond to the concerns of the water sector. However, times are a changing. New and emerging challenges and complexities, such as climate change, increasing water scarcity, skills flight and social inequality, are demanding more integrated levels of ingenuity and expertise from a diverse set of disciplines. The socio-political relevance of technical solutions needs to be determined in order to achieve impact. Creating a balance between technical, natural and social science is therefore critical to developing relevant and impact driven solutions that foster ownership at the local level. She would like to continue to work towards developing a truly integrated natural resources management systems and approaches, incentivizing social science in natural resource sectors, and helping to build young professionals.
Contact: Dr Inga Jacobs
Research Manager - Water Centred Knowledge