Humble steps toward co-production

I approach this blog as an exercise in reflection; what is my role as an academic, a life-long student, an environmental steward, a nature addict, a Latinx female? What is my purpose for the research that I do, and will continue to do? For me, it’s about being a platform for knowledge sharing.

This probably comes from watching my mother teach English to recent immigrant students, as well as seeing my aunt, who works with the Environmental Protection Agency, supply her with an endless amount of outreach and educational material. My mom would use her platform to help her students with math, science, civics… you name it. You’ve read about them in my previous blog post and how they fostered my love for all things “nature”, but this time I am taking the conversation a step further.

Youth share their perspective with Coral during her days with the Peace Corps. Photo by Jose Luis Menéndez Jiménez.

With knowledge sharing and interpretation comes the very important step of “co-production of knowledge”. This term “co-production” – an idea from the economist Elinor Ostrom in the late 1970s – means that individuals outside of traditional decision-making organizations contribute to the production of knowledge. For example, citizens within a coastal community could work with a state agency to co-produce an eco-tourism program. Similarly, during my time in Peace Corps, with the help of the local tour guides and fishers, we co-created a map of the park where I was working. It was my first humble step towards co-production of knowledge (and what is fueling my PhD dissertation and future career). There are many different forms of “co-production,” but here I am referring to knowledge since it’s been on my mind a lot lately, as well as on the minds of many out in the Twittersphere and academia in general.

Co-production of knowledge cannot happen unless there is an understanding among knowledge creators that there are different systems of knowledge or knowing.

For example, Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is a system of knowledge that local or indigenous groups have about their surrounding natural systems. TEK is also known as Indigenous Science. TEK systems have been used a lot recently with marine and coastal resource management in Latin America, with the First Nations People in Canada and Alaska, and by our National Parks Service.

Fishing families in Mexico sharing their insights with Coral. Photo by Angelica Quiñones Peraza.

So, back to reflecting on my role and my purpose: How can I make sure that my work adds to the collective body of knowledge, but most importantly, how do I make it accessible to the communities and individuals that helped me along the way? I see co-production of knowledge as a possible solution to those questions that have plagued me for much of my career as a student. The process of co-production of knowledge is just as important as the final product. The process in its entirety is a vehicle for communities to access and help create the science that has real impact on their lives. Communities gathering together to brainstorm with and teach researchers or resource managers their knowledge is a process that is iterative and very much learn-as-you-go. This is what makes it not just a co-production effort but a co-ownership. It’s part of honoring other systems of knowledge and how they add to the whole body of scholarship when it comes to our relationship with the world around us.

Author: Coral Marie Lozada Perez

Coral loves to travel, and when she visits a new special place, adds it to her tattoo collection. “I want a van. I want to travel. That’s all I want in life.” In the future, Coral plans to continue her work with coastal communities and fisheries. She has many ideas for where her career may take her, but mostly she wants to help people understand their place and importance as resource users and managers within their own communities.

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