TIP Policy Experiment in South Africa Launches


TIPC is expanding its programme of policy experimentation to include a project from founding member country, South Africa. This project focuses on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) associated with provision of water and sanitation.

The collaborative project – the ‘Living Catchments Water Project’ –  intends to strengthen water governance in South Africa. The project is centred on co-learning and co-creation through ‘communities of practice’ in order to enable collaboration; grow transformative social learning; and improve policy-advice practice and engagement for the country’s water roadmap, run by the Water Research Commission (WRC).

South Africa’s WRC and the Department for Science, Technology and Innovation (DSI) are working with the three coordinating research partners of TIPC – the University of Sussex Business School’s Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), the University of Utrecht’s Centre for Global Challenges and University of Valencia’s policy unit, INGENIO, using the newly created TIPC Methodology (TM) to stretch the ecological water project’s transformative potential and outcomes.

The start of this policy experiment marks a major and important step in South Africa’s TIPC membership. This stream of work builds on South Africa’s engagement with TIP approach over the past three years. Working with researchers from Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CESTII) and the University of Johannesburg, policymakers from DSI, practitioners from the WRC and also from the South Africa National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) along with independent professionals, the water policy experiment provides a space and platform to examine the Theory of Change (ToC) for the Living Catchment project, to link the TIPC Methodology (TM). At the heart of TM is ‘Formative Evaluation’ (FE) which uses deep learning to work towards Transformative Outcomes (TOs).

Through this TIPC Methodology new alternative pathways to the crucial SDGs can be created. Water security and provision for all, is embedded in ‘SDG 6: Water and Sanitation’ and is part of the UN Water Action Decade from 2018 – 2028. Alarmingly in 2018, Cape Town was the first city globally to be two weeks away from having no water provision.  Water is a vital, valuable resource, which both urban and rural settlements need ecological access to. Water is connected to many other SDGs, including SDGs: –  1: No Poverty; 2: No Hunger; 3, Good Health and Well-being; 11: Sustainable Cities; and 14: Live below Water. An integrated approach to addressing the SDGs, and the systems they are embedded in, is key to a TIP approach.

Imraan Patel, Deputy Director-General: Socio-Economic Innovation Partnerships at DSI said of the project:

Transformative Innovation Policy (TIP) thinking in South Africa receives a major boost with the start of this pilot intervention that combines capacity-building, planning, and research. Using online platforms and co-creation approaches, the 14-week structured intervention will provide opportunities for a project team involved in the living catchments project to identify opportunities for enhancing transformative outcomes. The learning from the pilot will be used to inform a larger-scale and more broad-based effort to use TIP thinking in South Africa.

Shanna Nienaber, Water RDI Roadmap Manager of the WRC said:

“I’m excited to undertake this co-learning journey with TIPC and the ‘Living Catchments Project’. This presents a unique opportunity to deepen our skill set in developing theories of change that embed TIP thinking, language and nuances into the Living Catchments Project implementation process. It also presents an opportunity to explore what emerges when we bring TIPC concepts together with the social learning and mainstreaming experience that the Living Catchments Project team bring from a biodiversity-water nexus perspective.”

Dr Chux Daniels, the TIPC project lead for the TIP Africa Hub, explains:

“The start of policy experiments in South Africa represents a major milestone in TIPC’s work in Africa. Undertaking this first policy experiment will help to strengthen the capabilities in the TIP approach to policymaking in South Africa, leading to the development of knowledge products that include blogs, a policy brief and other publications. In addition, the outcome of this policy experiment will inform the Southern Africa Regional TIP Engagement event, scheduled to take place in October 2020. Like everyone else involved in this exciting project, I look to working with the team in the learning journey ahead.”