Blog: Transformative nature based solutions to enhance water provision and liveability in Cape Town

Resource Type
TIPC Region
Africa HubGlobal

When working in interdisciplinary teams, reaching a shared understanding and agreed approach can be challenging. In this blog post, Dr Patience Mguni reflects upon her experience of using the structured brainstorming and the policy radar tool to facilitate greater dialogue and create a shared discourse.

This blog posts features the work of the Pathways to Water Resilient South African Cities (PaWS) project, a partner initiative between the University of Cape Town’s Future Water research institute and the University of Copenhagen, that is funded by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project focuses on nature-based solutions and ecological infrastructure for water security and provision in Cape Town, South Africa.

The coach who introduced the Transformative Innovation Policy tools to the project was Assistant Professor, Dr Patience Mguni from the Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resource Management at the University of Copenhagen. Dr Mguni is an urban sustainability and resilience specialist focusing on collaborative design, implementation, and coordination of action research projects in Europe and Africa.

The PaWS project, which looks at effectively utilising Cape Town’s natural stormwater ponds to augment the city’s groundwater supply (as well as to enhance liveability) incorporated the TIP Resource Lab’s ‘Structured Brainstorming Tool’ to facilitate discussion on producing greater experimental project design. This digital tool, housed on Miro, is a ‘thinking exercise’, a predefined free-association process, that is constructed for use by an individual or a range of actors.

In initiatives, projects or programmes this method allows the potential experimental elements to be drawn out to inform the project’s design and contribute towards the transformation of the socio-technical system, in this case Cape Town’s water provision system.

The stormwater pond project involves a trans-disciplinary team, ranging from engineers to anthropologists, who work together on a shared vision for secure, sustainable water provision in the City.  As is often the case in interdisciplinary teams, the project encountered a challenge in reaching shared understandings and agreed approaches.  For the second stage of the project’s development Dr Mguni introduced the Structured Brainstorming tool to facilitate greater dialogue creating a shared ‘PaWS’ project discourse. By using this tool, the diverse team fostered a deeper understanding of the differing perspectives to plan, agree and proceed with transformative activities.  The Structured Brainstorming tool, which is from the Experimentation component of the Resource Lab, helped uncover the values, positions and assumptions of team members to build intersectional knowledge and to aid consensus-building on how to optimally take the project forward. By using the Structured Brainstorming tool, the team achieved greater project integration, compounding a shared view on what transformation towards an ecological water solution would look like.  The tool has helped unpack tacit knowledge and contributed to an aligned, experimental, transformative mindset and vision for this real-world water security policy challenge.

Further, the team utilised the Policy Radar tool. Also from the Experimentation component, this is a reflective tool that can help a project to orientate towards transformative outcomes and change. Users score their initiative for the presence of each of the six TIP principles (directionality: societal goal: system-level impact; learning and reflexivity; conflict vs consensus; and inclusiveness), to create a picture of where strengths and weaknesses may lie, giving scope for deepening the project’s transformative potential.

Professor Mguni explains:

“We found the TIP experimental tools helpful in designing our process for this stage of the project.  PaWS is a transdisciplinary experiment, and we’ve got a lot of moving pieces, and a lot of relationships to manage and sort, including the knowledge management issues that come with that. We used the Policy Radar tool and the Structured Brainstorming tool.  They have been useful in getting us to a collaborative understanding on what the project idea is, and what kind of processes we need to go through. Also, we’ve been able to see the gaps in information, along with understanding the roles and involvement of other stakeholders and the community, along with the possibilities for most impact.”

Dr Mguni explains how the tools accelerated the project development process:

“In the first phase of the project, it took us about six months to get going, because we had engineers, geographers, anthropologists, water quality specialists and engagement specialists. So, we had to get to a common understanding on what we were trying to do and how we could get the project to be transformative for a very real societal impact. It was a bit difficult in the beginning, but with the structured brainstorming tool, we went through that process within the first month. We were able to map everything from who’s responsible for setting up engagements, to what tools we are going to use.  We argued things through but in a very structured proactive way. We would recommend the tools.”


Find out more about the PaWS project.



Mguni, P., Bloomfield, G. (2023)Transformative nature based solutions to enhance water provision and liveability in Cape Town. Available at…ity-in-cape-town/

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