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Incorporating pragmatism in a behaviour change-led climate adaptation project: a collaborative reflection

Kien Nguyen-Trung (BehaviourWorks Australia and Water Sensitive Cities Australia, Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)
Alexander K. Saeri (BehaviourWorks Australia, Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)
Stefan Kaufman (BehaviourWorks Australia, Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 23 April 2024

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Abstract

Purpose

This article argues the value of integrating pragmatism in applying behavioural science to complex challenges. We describe a behaviour change-led knowledge co-production process in the specific context of climate change in Australia. This process was led by an interdisciplinary research team who struggled with the limitations of the prevailing deterministic behaviour change paradigms, such as the “test, learn, adapt” model, which often focuses narrowly on individual behaviours and fails to integrate multiple interpretations from diverse stakeholders into their knowledge co-production process.

Design/methodology/approach

This article uses collaborative reflection as a method of inquiry. We document the team’s experience of a recent challenge-led, programatic research initiative that applied behaviour change strategies to reduce climate vulnerabilities. We demonstrate the necessity of critical reflection and abductive reasoning in the face of the complexities inherent in knowledge co-production addressing complex problems. It underscores the importance of accommodating diverse perspectives and contextual nuances over a one-size-fits-all method.

Findings

The article shares lessons learnt about integrating collaborative and critical reflection throughout a project cycle and demonstrates the capacity of abductive reasoning to ease the challenges arising from the tension between behaviour change paradigms and knowledge co-production principles. This approach allows for a more adaptable and context-sensitive application, acknowledging the multiplicity of understandings and the dynamic nature of behavioural change in relation to climate adaptation.

Originality/value

This reflection contributes original insights into the fusion of pragmatism with behaviour change strategies, proposing a novel framework that prioritises flexibility, context-specificity and the recognition of various stakeholder perspectives in the co-production of knowledge.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash University, for providing funding for this manuscript. The authors also would like to thank their colleagues at BehaviourWorks Australia for their support.

Citation

Nguyen-Trung, K., Saeri, A.K. and Kaufman, S. (2024), "Incorporating pragmatism in a behaviour change-led climate adaptation project: a collaborative reflection", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRJ-11-2023-0168

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2024, Emerald Publishing Limited

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