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Facilitating multi-stakeholder collaboration – a new handbook

21 January 2015

The Inquiry Based Approach (IBA)

The Inquiry Based Approach (IBA) has been developed to facilitate multi-stakeholder collaboration for sustainable transformation of complex and contested situations.

SWEDESD and partners have published a handbook based on recent experiences and insights from collaborative learning initiatives in 18 cities on three continents.

The handbook describes the Inquiry-based Approach as a way to overcome constraints for collaboration and collaborative learning when addressing sustainability challenges. Such constraints include conflicting interests, unequal power relationships and lack of competence and resources among stakeholders.

-Our experience of working in Europe, Africa and Southern Asia shows that this approach enables learning and collaboration on complex and contested sustainability issues, says Martin Westin, Project Coordinator at SWEDESD.

The Inquiry-Based Approach (IBA) makes it possible for stakeholders from civil society, public authorities, business and academia to come together as a team and jointly engage in a purposeful process to tackle sustainability challenges with concrete actions at the local level.

In an IBA process, a multi-stakeholder team agrees on an inquiry that guides its learning and action. Rather than pursuing predefined objectives, an inquiry allows for exploring and mutually understanding different, and often contested and opposed, perspectives and interests.  It also makes it easier to include additional stakeholders as the process evolves, and to adjust the scope and direction of the joint work based on new insights. 

The collaboration revolves around a series of learning cycles, which are supported by experienced facilitators - a critical factor for trust building and the co-creation of knowledge. The support and input given by the facilitators is based on insights from learning theory as well as systems thinking, conflict management, power analysis, environmental economics and public goods valuation.

The first purpose of the “The Inquiry Based Approach (IBA) - a Facilitators Handbook” (pdf) is to support facilitators.  It can also be a source of inspiration for others interested in change processes related to sustainable development.

For further information contact Martin Westin, phone: +46 18 471 84 08, martin.westin[@]

SWEDESD - Swedish International Centre of Education for Sustainable Development, is a centre at the Faculty of Educational Sciences at Uppsala University. A small interdisciplinary team supports capacity development, research and policy development related to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).