Investigating context and practice

Welcome to the first module of the ‘Changing Practice’ short course. This document is the orientation to Module 1. It will give you a basic overview of what we will cover over the next few days as well as a few exercises and questions for you to do during the course and at home.

This orientation will also point you in the direction of other information that may be useful for you. These are called support materials. You will find these support materials in the menu items ‘exercises’, ‘resources’ and ‘worksheets’.

Once you have attended Module 1 and done the assignment you will understand more about how people learn when they engage in water management practices. You will also be more skilled in identifying questions and challenges that people have with water activist practices. We do this by investigating context and practice.
How will this help me in my work?

In your role as a civil society activist this module will help you:

  • understand more about how people learn,
  • become skilled in a range of water practices and,
  • identify the challenges that people face in a variety of contexts with the practices that they are engaging with.

The background knowledge that you get about people’s different water practices and contexts will serve as a foundation for you to understand how people learn new practices in their social contexts, and how you can support this through your own activist and social learning practices. This in turn will make you more skilled in helping people to find out what they want to know and what they need to know so as to change or improve their practice. We call this meeting people’s interest and knowledge needs.


Why do we focus on investigating practice?

Human beings are constantly involved in practices. Practices represent our ability to do things, think about and say things about what we do and why, and they are the ‘cornerstone’ around which we relate to others and our environments. In the section above, we suggested that there are a number of water activist practices that …

Why do we investigate context?

A practice happens within a particular context. It is the context, which often influences the choices we make about a particular practice and which supports and inhibits the practice. For example, our current practice of food consumption would not have become possible without the advances in farming technology. The circumstances which surround an event or a …

How do we learn to observe and question?

To help us understand context and practice we need to observe and question. As we have explored above, if we are observing practices, we need to observe what people are DOING, what people are SAYING about what they are doing, and WHO is involved in what they are doing and how (RELATINGS). We also need to observe how the …

Theories of civil society and the history of the SAWC

Support material: Assessing the role of civil society in South African water policy within the context of legal requirements and democratic discourse. The role of civil society has a history that has changed over time and is still changing and being debated. The role that people ascribe to civil society can influence the effect that it …