UTS site search

Dr Dena Fam

Biography

Dena is a Research Director and Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Futures and Centre for Management and Organisational Studies. Her consulting and research experience has spanned socio-cultural (learning for sustainability), institutional (policy analysis) and technological aspects of water and sewage management. Dena has recently completed a PhD in sustainable futures looking at how to foster ‘Transitions toward sustainability through transdisciplinary inquiry and the process of individual, social and organisational learning’.

Over the last decade Dena have been involved in working with industry, government and community actors to collaboratively design, research and trial alternative sanitation systems with the view of sustainably managing sewage and reducing its environmental impact on the water cycle. The significant environmental impact of conventional approaches to sewage management in discharging micro pollutants and nutrients to water ways has fuelled her passion for researching more sustainable alternatives in collaboration with relevant actors managing, regulating and importantly using these systems in practice. Her area of interest and expertise therefore is in facilitating socio-technical change in sanitation through transdisciplinary collaboration inclusive of multiple disciplinary and lay perspectives and knowledges.

The quality of Dena’s research performance is demonstrated by a range of awards, scholarships and merits. Most recently she has been selected as a prestigious Peter Cullen Fellow (2013), has been a project manager of the UTS Sustainable Sanitation Project (funded by the UTS Cross Collaborative Challenge Grant) positioning UTS as a leader in research on sustainable sanitation globally and has been recognised locally with an award for Excellence in Leadership and Environmental Innovation by the NSW Green Globe Awards (2012). In addition she has received an Australian Post Graduate Award (2008-2011), a CRC Irrigation Futures undergraduate scholarship (2007), a Science and Technology award from CRC Irrigation Futures (2009) for the most downloaded technical report and inclusion on the UWS Dean’s merit list (2007).

Beyond research and consultancy Dena has co-convened an international water conference i.e. Tapping the Turn (http://tappingtheturn.org/ ), on the social dimensions of water management, been involved in science communication initiatives (e.g. The ABC, Speed Meet the Science Geek), and designed sanitation systems for developing countries through her voluntary work with Engineers without Borders.

Image of Dena Fam
Research Director, Institute for Sustainable Futures
Core Member, ISF - Institute for Sustainable Futures
Bachelor of Industrial Design, Doctorate of Philosophy
Download CV  (PDF, 397KB)
Phone
+61 2 9514 4169
Can supervise: Yes

Books

Fam, D., Riedy, C., Palmer, J. & Mitchell, C.A. 2017, Transdisciplinary research and practice for sustainability outcomes, Routledge, UK.
'Transdisciplinarity' is a form of research and practice that synthesises knowledge from a range of academic disciplines and from the community. There is now global interest and a significant body of work on transdisciplinarity and its potential to address the apparently intractable problems of society. This creates the opportunity for a specific focus on its practical application to sustainability issues. Transdisciplinary Research and Practice for Sustainability Outcomes examines the role of transdisciplinarity in the transformations needed for a sustainable world. After an historical overview of transdisciplinarity, Part 1 focuses on tools and frameworks to achieve sustainability outcomes in practice and Part 2 consolidates work by a number of scholars on supporting transdisciplinary researchers and practitioners.Part 3 is a series of case studies including several international examples that demonstrate the challenges and rewards of transdisciplinary work. The concluding chapter proposes a future research pathway for understanding the human factors that underpin successful transdisciplinary research.
Fam, D.M., Mosely, E., Mellick-Lopes, A., Mathieson, L., Morison, J. & Connelian, G. 2008, Irrigation of Urban Green Spaces: A Review of the Environmental, Social and Economic Benefits, 1, Cooperative Research Centre for Irrigation Futures, CRC Technical Publications.
For the first time both urban and rural communities are together experiencing drought. In most cities and towns across the country, mandatory water restrictions have been in place for the last four or five years. These restrictions have reduced consumption by 14 - 28% and impacted on 75% of Australia's population. But long-term water restrictions come at a cost. Implied costs have been put in the order of $1.6 - 6.2 billion each year. In this report a comprehensive review is provided of the benefits of urban green spaces and the potential impacts of long-term water restrictions on parks, sports grounds and public gardens. This sector is estimated to account for 27% of the implied cost of long-term water restrictions. A Triple Bottom Line approach is used to examine the environmental, social and economic benefits of urban green spaces and the maintenance of these values using irrigation during drought. The economic aspects are broadly covered in this report. A specific CRC of Irrigation Futures report attempts to make a dollar value estimate of the benefits of urban open space in two case study areas (benefits transfer method).
Fam, D.M. 2007, Dry flush - cognitive design strategies to faciliate adoption of dry sanitation, Thesis, University of Western Sydney, Sydney.

Chapters

Palmer, J., Riedy, C., Fam, D.M. & Mitchell, C.A. 2017, 'Transdisciplinary research and practice for sustainability outcomes: an introduction' in Fam, D., Palmer, J., Riedy, C. & Mitchell, C. (eds), Transdisciplinary research and practice for sustainability outcomes, Routledge, UK, pp. 1-6.
Mitchell, C., Cordell, D. & Fam, D.M. 2017, 'Beginning at the end: the outcome spaces framework to guide purposive transdisciplinary research' in Fam, D., Palmer, J., Reidy, C. & Mitchell, C. (eds), Transdisciplinary research and practice for sustainability outcomes, pp. 25-38.
Fam, D.M., Smith, T. & Cordell, D. 2017, 'Being a transdisciplinary researcher: skills and dispositions fostering competence in transdisciplinary research and practice' in Fam, D., Palmer, J., Riedy, C. & Mitchell, C. (eds), Transdisciplinary research and practice for sustainability outcomes, pp. 77-92.
Williams, J., Fam, D. & Mellick Lopes, A. 2017, 'Creating knowledge: visual communication design research in transdisciplinary projects' in Fam, D., Palmer, J., Riedy, C. & Mitchell, C. (eds), Transdisciplinary research and practice for sustainability outcomes.
Fam, D.M. & Sofoulis, Z. 2017, 'Trouble at the disciplinary divide: a knowledge ecologies analysis of a co-design project with native Alaskan communities' in Fam, D., Palmer, J., Riedy, C. & Mitchell, C. (eds), Transdisciplinary research and practice for sustainability outcomes, Routledge.
Cordell, D.J., Metson, G., Iwaniec, D., Bui, T., Childers, D., Dao, N., Dang, H., Davidson, J., Jacobs, B., Kumwenda, S., Morse, T., Nguyen, V., Thole, B. & Tilley, E. 2017, 'Transforming cities: securing food and clean waterways through a transdisciplinary phosphorus approach' in Fam, D., Palmer, J., Riedy, C. & Mitchell, C. (eds), Transdisciplinary Research and Practice for Sustainability Outcomes, Routledge, pp. 139-154.
Willetts, J.R., Mitchell, C.A., Abeysuriya, K. & Fam, D.M. 2012, 'Creative tensions: negotiating the multiple dimensions of a transdisciplinary doctorate' in Lee, A. & Dnaby, S. (eds), Reshaping Doctoral Education: International Approaches and Pedagogies, Routledge (Taylor and Francis Group), London and New York, pp. 128-143.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Mitchell, C.A., Fam, D.M. & Cordell, D.J. 2011, 'Effectively managing the transition towards restorative futures in the sewage industry: a phosphorus case study' in Howe, C. & Mitchell, C. (eds), Water Sensitive Cities, IWA Publishing, UK, pp. 43-62.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Today's urban water managers are faced with an unprecedented set of issues that call for a different approach to urban water management. These include the urgent changes needed to respond to climate change, population growth, growing resource constraints, and rapidly increasing global urbanization. Not only are these issues difficult to address, but they are facing us in an environment that is increasingly unpredictable and complex. Although innovative, new tools are now available to water professionals to address these challenges, solving the water problems of tomorrow cannot be done by the water professionals alone. Instead, the city of the future, whether in the developed or developing world, must integrate water management planning and operations with other city services to meet the needs of humans and the environment in a dramatically superior manner. This book has been developed from selected papers from 2009 Singapore Water Week Planning for Sustainable SolutionsA and also papers taken from other IWA events. It pulls together material that supports the water professionals' need for useful and up-to-date material.

Conferences

Crosby, A., Fam, D.M. & Abby Mellick Lopes 2016, 'Wealth from Waste: a transdisciplinary approach to design education', Open Design for E-very-thing – exploring new design purposes, Hong Kong.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Fam, D.M., Crosby, A. & Mellick Lopes, A. 2017, 'Touching the system: everyday practices implicated in creating a new economy for food waste management', 9th International Social Innovation Research Conference (ISIRC), Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia.
Fam, D.M., Leimbach, T., Kelly, S., Hitchens, L. & Callen, M. 2017, 'Collaborative research and collective learning: institutionalizing interdisciplinary programs in higher education', International Transdisciplinary Conference, Transdisciplinary Research and Education — Intercultural Endeavours, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany.
Fam, D.M., Mitchell, C., Ross, K. & Ukowitz, M. 2017, 'Challenging my and your worldview - recognizing ontological (beliefs), epistemological (knowledge) and axiological (values) assumptions to enrich TD research and practice', International Transdisciplinary Conference, Transdisciplinary Research and Education — Intercultural Endeavours, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany.
Mitchell, C.A., Cordell, D. & Fam, D. 2015, 'Designing transdisciplinary research for preferred outcomes: The 'outcome spaces framework'', International Transdisciplinarity Conference 2015 "Sustainability and health: emerging topics and new challenges for inter- and transdisciplinary research", TDNet, Basel, Switzerland.
The framework presented in this paper offers an alternative starting point for transdisciplinary research projects seeking to create change. The framework begins at the end: it distinguishes three distinct 'transdisciplinary outcome spaces' and proposes articulating their content for purposive transdisciplinary research projects. Defining upfront the desired improvements has profound implications for how transdisciplinary research is conceived, designed, implemented and evaluated. Three key realms of transdisciplinary outcome spaces are distinguished – situation, knowledge, and learning – and elaborated: (1) an improvement within the 'situation' or field of inquiry; (2) the generation of relevant stocks and flows of knowledge, including scholarly knowledge and other societal knowledge forms, and making those insights accessible and meaningful to researchers, participants and beneficiaries; and (3) mutual and transformational learning by researchers and research participants to increase the likelihood of persistent change. Positioning the framework in the field of transdisciplinary literature reveals that much of the contestation concerning transdisciplinary research and practice may be attributable to the diverse but implicit ontological and epistemological perspectives inhabited by transdisciplinary researchers, leading to a call for more reflexive and explicit attention to these and other formative influences (i.e. sources of funding, project motivation, or locus of power).
Fam, D.M., Ross, K. & Mitchell, C.A. 2015, 'Translating storytelling into principles for designing dry sanitation in rural native Alaskan communities', International Dry Toilet Conference, Tampere, Finland.
Yeomans, W., Fam, D. & White, S. 2015, 'Case study analysis of niche energy service innovations at the precinct scale – Actors, factors and levels influencing future city-scale transformation', 6th International Sustainability Transitions (IST) Conference, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton (UK).
View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Franco-Trigo, L., Durks, D., Lutfun, N.H., Fam, D., Benrimoj, S. & Sabater-Hernández, D. 2015, 'Identifying a planning group for the development, implementation and evaluation of a pharmacy service aimed at preventing cardiovascular diseases in Australia', 75th FIP World Congress of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Dusseldorf, Germany.
Intervention Mapping (IM) provides a comprehensive framework that can help pharmacy service planners overcome current challenges in pharmacy practice, such as the development, implementation and evaluation of pharmacy services. According to IM, pharmacy service planning must begin by establishing a stakeholder planning group.A group of 6-7 key informants will identify potential opportunities and gaps related to community pharmacy and cardiovascular health, and map a ‘preliminary list’ of stakeholders. A snowballing exercise will be conducted with the identified stakeholders to obtain a comprehensive ‘final list’. Lastly, mapping exercises will be performed to assess the relevance, interests and attitudes of the different stakeholders. This information will be used to identify key stakeholders to be included in the planning group.At the moment, the key informants have been identified, contacted and invited to attend the first workshop that has been structured in four parts. Qualitative methodologies (i.e., focus group/brainstorming) and social network analysis technique have been selected to identify the opportunities and gaps and obtain the preliminary list of stakeholders.The results of this study will provide a list of key stakeholders who can be part of the planning group for the development, implementation and evaluation of a pharmacy service in Australia.
Fam, D.M. 2015, 'Decolonising research methodologies: Translating stories into principles to design essential services for remote 'native' Alaskan villages', Designing for the Common Good, UTS Business School.
Fam, D.M. 2014, 'Creating a conducive environment for knowledge partnerships: Learning about the viability of sustainable innovation in practice', Cultivating Knowledge Ecologies: Contexts, Complexities, Powers, People, Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney., Parramatta.
Mellick-Lopes, A. & Fam, D.M. 2014, 'Transitions, Social Practices and Design: Notes from a Transdisciplinary Research Project', Feral experiment, New design thinking, Feral experiment, New design thinking, National Institute for Experimental Arts, UNSW, Sydney.
This paper describes the role of design research in an ambitious transdisciplinary research project, `Transitioning to sustainable sanitation futures, that involved trialing a novel system of sanitation in a university setting. In the context of century-old sanitation infrastructure, institutional sectors speaking at cross-purposes, embedded conventions of comfort, cleanliness and convenience in toileting and limited understanding of how specific technologies are scripting social practices, there was much to learn. The paper will detail designs involvement in the project across three action.
Fam, D.M. & Mellick Lopes, A. 2014, 'Transitions, Social Practices and Design: Notes from a Transdisciplinary Research Project', Feral experimental, New design thinking, Feral Experimental: New Design Thinking, UNSW Galleries, pp. 8-8.
There is currently great interest in the idea of transitions to help bring on more sustainable societies and cultures. This is demonstrated by community led projects like Transition Towns, and government sponsored reports such as the German Advisory Council on Global Change's World in Transition: a social contract for sustainability (2011). Design has an important role to play in envisioning, redirecting and steering transitions, and is uniquely implicated in how transitions play out. Design's involvement in transitions is also changing how design is being taught and practised. This paper describes the role of design research in an ambitious transdisciplinary research project, 'Transitioning to sustainable sanitation futures', that involved trialing a novel system of sanitation in a university setting. In the context of century-old sanitation infrastructure, institutional sectors speaking at cross-purposes, embedded conventions of comfort, cleanliness and convenience in toileting and limited understanding of how specific technologies are scripting social practices, there was much to learn. The paper will detail design's involvement in the project across three action research phases. Two cohorts of visual communications design students from two universities responded to a range of briefs generated by the project team. Students designed narratives to introduce the complex scenarios presented by the project; in situ signage to aid use of the new technologies; and social engagement tools to elicit feedback and responses from end-users. The resulting artefacts influenced how the project was perceived and supported a shift in emphasis from technical to social innovation. The paper will consider implications for design research in a university setting, where niche experimentation for a broad range of stakeholders could support socio-technical transitions in the wider culture. Drawing on current transitions literature, this paper advocates for the idea of the university-...
Fam, D.M. & Mitchell, C. 2014, 'Forging pathways toward the development of recycled water schemes in Australia through collective action', International conference on sustainability transitions, Impact & Institutions, Utrecht.
Fam, D.M., Abeysuriya, K. & Mitchell, C.A. 2013, 'A transdisciplinary project of Urine Diversion (UD)', The 1st Global Conference on Research Integration & Implementation, ANU Canberra.
Fam, D.M., Cordell, D.J. & Mitchell, C.A. 2013, 'Beginning at the end: The curious case of the TD outcome spaces', The 1st Global Conference on Research Integration & Implementation, ANU Canberra.
Mitchell, C.A., Abeysuriya, K. & Fam, D.M. 2012, 'Urine Diversion (UD) for P recovery: Learning from experience', 3rd Sustainable Phosphorus Summit, Developing a Blueprint for Global Phosphorus Security, Global Phosphorus Research Initiative (GPRI), University of Technology Sydney.
Fam, D.M., Abeysuriya, K., Meeks, T., Sharples, J. & Mitchell, C.A. 2012, 'Social learning is essential in transitioning to sustainable water services', Proceedings of OzWater'12 'Sharing Knowledge, Planning the Future', Australian Water Association Convention - Ozwater, Australian Water Association (AWA), Sydney, Australia, pp. 1-2.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Transitioning the water industry towards more sustainable outcomes requires innovation in two dimensions: the technologies we implement and the people who engage with those technologies. This innovation is challenging, and requires shifts in thinking of both those who use the technology and those who design, construct, and operate the technologies. For users of new technologies, the changes are about every day habits and practices. For those implementing new technologies and systems within the water industry, the challenges are about changes in the existing institutions, professional norms, and belief systems, as well as requisite skills and capacities.
Delaney, C.C. & Fam, D.M. 2012, 'The meaning of rainwater: using practice theory to analyse household rainwater consumption', Proceedings of Tapping the Turn conference: social dimensions of water management, Tapping the Turn: social dimensions of water management, Australian National University (ANU), Hedley Bull Centre, Australian National University, Canberrra.
Fam, D.M. & Lopes, A. 2012, 'Supporting system change and niche practices through qualitative social research', Proceedings of the Beyond Behavioural Change Symposium, Beyond Behavioural Change: A symposium on social practice theories and their implications for environmental policy and programs, RMIT, Storey Hall, RMIT, Melbourne.
Fam, D.M., Mitchell, C.A. & Abeysuriya, K. 2011, 'Learning to facilitate learning', 2nd International Conference on Sustainability Transitions, 2nd International Conference on Sustainability Transitions - Diversity, plurality and change: breaking new grounds in sustainability transition research, Lund University, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.
Fam, D.M., Mitchell, C.A., Abeysuriya, K. & Lopes, A. 2011, 'Facilitating social learning in transdisciplinary collaboration: a socio-technical experiment in implementing sustainable sanitation', 55th Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences, All together now - working across disciplines: People, principles and practice, International Society of Systems Scientists, Hull, UK.
Fam, D.M., Mitchell, C.A. & Abeysuriya, K. 2010, 'Institutional challenges to system innovation in wastewater management - the case of urine diversion in Sweden', Cities of The Future 2010, Cities of The Future 2010, IWA, Marriott hotel, Boston, USA.
Mitchell, C.A., Abeysuriya, K., Willetts, J.R. & Fam, D.M. 2010, 'Enabling decentralized urban sewage infrastructure by facilitating successful organisations to provide long-term management', Cities of The Future 2010, Cities of the Future 2010, IWA, Marriott Hotel, Boston, USA.
Mellick-Lopes, A., Fam, D.M. & Williams, J. 2010, 'Designing sustainable sanitation through transdisciplinary research: a pilot project of nutrient recovery and reuse', Cumulus - International Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media - Shanghai Conference 2010: Young Creators for Better City and Better Life, Cumulus - International Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media, DESIS, Shanghai, China, pp. 339-346.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Designs contribution to the sustainable development of infrastructural systems of consumption (eg. water, sanitation, transport, agriculture) has primarily been in optimizing existing products, processes and services. Any transition towards sustainability will however need to move beyond finite solutions to complex problems and consider ambitious innovation across multiple components of the existing system, including its technologies, organizations, institutions, infrastructures and social habits of practice.
Abeysuriya, K., Fam, D.M., Hagare, P. & Williams, J. 2010, 'Transitioning to sustainable sanitation through cross disciplinary, practice-based research: an on-campus pilot of urine diversion at UTS', The 10th international conference of Australasian campuses towards sustainability (ACTS Inc): connecting curriculum and campus, International conference of Australasian campuses towards sustainability, RMIT, Melbourne, Australia, pp. 1-8.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Waterborne sanitation using flushing toilets and sewer networks has been recognised as the most important medical milestone for its transformational impact on urban public health since the 19th century (Ferriman 2007). While this model of urban sanitation has become the accepted norm for the industrialised world, its cost and resource-intensive nature is increasingly recognised as unsustainable. Several alternative models offering improved sustainability through greater material efficiency have emerged (West 2003). One of these is urine diversion (UD), the topic of this paper.
Mitchell, C.A., Abeysuriya, K. & Fam, D.M. 2009, 'Sanitary systems: lifecycle thinking leads to consideration of distributed infrastructure', 4th International Conference on Life Cycle Management, The Global Challenge of Managing Life Cycles, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town, South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa, pp. 1-7.
Fam, D.M., Mitchell, C.A., Abeysuriya, K. & Mellick-Lopes, A. 2009, 'Distributed wastewater management in Melbourne, Australia: A case study of transition in practice', 1st European Conference on Sustainability Transitions, Dynamics and governance of transitions to sustainability, Amsterdam.
Fam, D.M., Mitchell, C.A. & Abeysuriya, K. 2009, 'Critical stakeholder engagement in shifting paradigms from removal to recovery in wastewater management - a case study of implementing urine diversion in Sweden', Asia-Pacific Science, Technology and Society Network Conference 2009, Griffith University, Brisbane.
Fam, D.M., Mitchell, C.A. & Willetts, J.R. 2008, 'The co-evolution of technology and society: a retrospective analysis of the development of Sydney's sewer system', 10th Annual Postgraduate Research Students Conference, Postgraduate Research Students Conference, University Graduate School, UTS, Sydney.
Fam, D.M., Mitchell, C.A. & Mellick-Lopes, A. 2008, 'Is design the answer to cultural acceptability of waterless toilets? a collaborative approach to design research', Changing the Change - Design Visions, Proposals and Tools, Umberto Allemendi & Co., Torino, Italy.
Fam, D.M. & Mellick-Lopes, A. 2007, 'Design and cultural acceptability of waterless toilets', New Directions on the cultural use of water, In the Pipeline, Centre for Cultural Research (UWS), University of Western Sydney, Parramatta Campus, Australia.

Journal articles

Franco-Trigo, L., Hossain, L.N., Durks, D., Fam, D., Inglis, S.C., Benrimoj, S.I. & Sabater-Hernández, D. 2017, 'Stakeholder analysis for the development of a community pharmacy service aimed at preventing cardiovascular disease', Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 539-552.
View/Download from: Publisher's site
Participatory approaches involving stakeholders across the health care system can help enhance the development, implementation and evaluation of health services. These approaches may be particularly useful in planning community pharmacy services and so overcome challenges in their implementation into practice. Conducting a stakeholder analysis is a key first step since it allows relevant stakeholders to be identified, as well as providing planners a better understanding of the complexity of the health care system.The main aim of this study was to conduct a stakeholder analysis to identify those individuals and organizations that could be part of a leading planning group for the development of a community pharmacy service (CPS) to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD) in Australia.An experienced facilitator conducted a workshop with 8 key informants of the Australian health care system. Two structured activities were undertaken. The first explored current needs and gaps in cardiovascular care and the role of community pharmacists. The second was a stakeholder analysis, using both ex-ante and ad-hoc approaches. Identified stakeholders were then classified into three groups according to their relative influence on the development of the pharmacy service. The information gathered was analyzed using qualitative content analysis.The key informants identified 46 stakeholders, including (1) patient/consumers and their representative organizations, (2) health care providers and their professional organizations and (3) institutions and organizations that do not directly interact with patients but organize and manage the health care system, develop and implement health policies, pay for health care, influence funding for health service research or promote new health initiatives. From the 46 stakeholders, a core group of 12 stakeholders was defined. These were considered crucial to the service's development because they held positions that could drive or inhibit progress. Sec...
Fam, D.M. & Sofoulis, Z. 2017, 'A Knowledge Ecologies analysis of co-designing water and sanitation services in Alaska', Science and Engineering Ethics, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 1059-1083.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Willingness to collaborate across disciplinary boundaries is necessary but not sufficient for project success. This is a case study of a transdisciplinary project whose success was constrained by contextual factors that ultimately favoured technical and scientific forms of knowledge over the cultural intelligence that might ensure technical solutions were socially feasible. In response to Alaskan Water and Sewer Challenge (AWSC), an international team with expertise in engineering, consultative design and public health formed in 2013 to collaborate on a two-year project to design remote area water and sanitation systems in consultation with two native Alaskan communities. Team members were later interviewed about their experiences. Project processes are discussed using a 'Knowledge Ecology' framework, which applies principles of ecosystems analysis to knowledge ecologies, identifying the knowledge equivalents of 'biotic' and 'abiotic' factors and looking at their various interactions. In a positivist 'knowledge integration' perspective, different knowledges are like Lego blocks that combine with other 'data sets' to create a unified structure. The knowledge ecology framework highlights how interactions between different knowledges and knowledge practitioners ('biotic factors') are shaped by contextual ('abiotic') factors: the conditions of knowledge production, the research policy and funding climate, the distribution of research resources, and differential access to enabling infrastructures (networks, facilities). This case study highlights the importance of efforts to negotiate between different knowledge frameworks, including by strategic use of language and precepts that help translate social research into technical design outcomes that are grounded in social reality.
Fam, D.M. 2017, 'Facilitating communities of practice as social learning systems: a case study of trialling sustainable sanitation at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS)', Knowledge Management Research and Practice, pp. 1-9.
View/Download from: Publisher's site
While social learning is advocated as critical for inducing large-scale shifts toward sustainability, methodological issues associated with designing the opportunities for social learning or guidelines for practitioners seeking to facilitate such learning in cross-disciplinary teams working on sustainability-oriented projects are lacking. This paper draws on a two-year pilot project in Sydney, in which government, industry and academic partners collaborated to learn about the development potential of urine diversion (UD) systems in practice. The concept of 'Communities of Practice' was used to identify inherent challenges and opportunities for social learning. An outcome of the project has been the identification of overarching principles for designing opportunities for social learning in such projects, particularly the need (1) to facilitate community-oriented leadership, (2) to develop strategic exercises for collaborative engagement and (3) involvement of actors beyond the boundaries of the experiment to introduce novelty, diversity and cumulative learning opportunities.
Giurco, D., Teske, S., Fam, D.M. & Florin, N. 2016, 'Energy-mineral Nexus: Tensions between Integration and Reconfiguration', Enerugi Shigen, vol. 37, no. 3, pp. 26-31.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Mitchell, C., Cordell, D. & Fam, D. 2015, 'Beginning at the End: The outcome spaces framework to guide purposive transdisciplinary research', Futures, vol. 65, no. January 2015, pp. 86-96.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
The framework presented in this paper offers an alternative starting point for transdisciplinary research projects seeking to create change. The framework begins at the end: it distinguishes three distinct 'transdisciplinary outcome spaces' and proposes articulating their content for purposive transdisciplinary research projects. Defining upfront the desired improvements has profound implications for how transdisciplinary research is conceived, designed, implemented and evaluated. Three key realms of transdisciplinary outcome spaces are distinguished – situation, knowledge, and learning – and elaborated: (1) an improvement within the 'situation' or field of inquiry; (2) the generation of relevant stocks and flows of knowledge, including scholarly knowledge and other societal knowledge forms, and making those insights accessible and meaningful to researchers, participants and beneficiaries; and (3) mutual and transformational learning by researchers and research participants to increase the likelihood of persistent change. Positioning the framework in the field of transdisciplinary literature reveals that much of the contestation concerning transdisciplinary research and practice may be attributable to the diverse but implicit ontological and epistemological perspectives inhabited by transdisciplinary researchers, leading to a call for more reflexive and explicit attention to these and other formative influences (i.e. sources of funding, project motivation, or locus of power).
Fam, D. & Sofoulis, Z. 2015, 'Local adaptations in a changing water climate: small-scale infrastructures', Local Environment: the international journal of justice and sustainability, vol. 20, no. 5, pp. 525-528.
View/Download from: Publisher's site
Delaney, C. & Fam, D. 2015, 'The 'meaning' behind household rainwater use: An Australian case study', Technology in Society, vol. 42, pp. 179-186.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Suburban rainwater tanks have the potential to reduce household mains water consumption, but simply installing the technology does not mean rainwater is automatically incorporated into everyday practices. Exploring how rainwater is conceptualised in contrast to mains water, and the way it is used in household practices, provides insights into why rainwater tank households may not be using less mains water than households without tanks. Water saving strategies that promote rainwater tanks tend to focus on installation rather than how, why and where rainwater is substituted for mains water. While there is the assumption that rainwater tank households use less mains water, an investigation of rainwater practices have revealed influential social and cultural factors that extend far beyond installing a new technology. Drawing on a household water study involving 21 interviews and 1425 surveys in the Illawarra region, Australia, practice theory principles provided insight into how rainwater was conceptualised, revealing the 'meaning' of rainwater as an influential factor informing its everyday use. The historical, cultural and emotional meanings of rainwater contribute to shaping its use in everyday practices. Rainwater means different things to different people and it is this spectrum of meanings that inform the range of practices, and volumes of use. This study highlights opportunities for increased integration of rainwater into household practices, which may broaden the perceived uses and usefulness, reshaping it's meaning over time.
Mellick Lopes, A., Gill, A. & Fam, D. 2015, 'Design and social practice theory: A promising dialogue for sustainable living', Journal of Design Research, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 237-247.
Fam, D. & Lopes, A.M. 2015, 'Toilet practices and system change: lessons from a transdisciplinary research project', J. of Design Research, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 307-322.
View/Download from: Publisher's site
Fam, D.M., Lahiri-Dutt, K. & Sofoulis, Z. 2015, 'Scaling Down: Researching Household Water Practices', Acme: an international e-journal for critical geographies, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 639-651.
The thematic title of this special themed section of ACME — 'Scaling Down: Researching household water practices — is a corrective to the excessive emphasis on 'scaling up frequently encountered in discourses on water management. Scaling up is a concept essentially derived from engineering procedure whereby small-scale models of designs are trialled before full-size working models are built. In positivist social science, the idea of scaling up seems now to have been accepted without much debate; researchers empirically study phenomena within a given context to develop theories that are then extrapolated. When technocrats think about and deal with water, they seem to accept scaling up as the only valid approach. When technocrats advise bureaucrats on water management, they tend to define this approach as the most rational, technically sound and economically efficient approach. Technological fixes are perceived to bypass entanglement with the messy and value-laden domains of society and politics. A technocratic approach treats social change as an engineering problem, where individuals within the society are provided expert opinions aimed at changing their attitudes to produce a more economically rationalist and efficient set of water consumption behaviours.
Fam, D.M. & Mellick Lopes, A. 2015, 'Designing for system Change: Innovation, Practice and Everyday Water', Acme: an international e-journal for critical geographies, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 735-750.
In this paper we examine the installation and trial of a novel system of integrated water management from the perspective of household users in order to reveal the importance of considering social practices in the adoption of innovative water management systems, and in the process reframe the ways in which the implementation of water conserving technologies is understood. Drawing on a case study in peri-urban Victoria, Australia, this paper analyses the experiences of 25 household residents over an 18-month period to determine how household users adapted their everyday water use (or not) to a new water management system. This research focuses on three important domains of practice in water management – toileting, cleaning and communication – to reveal the tension between established and novel practices. Our findings demonstrate that the conventional focus on technocratic and engineering-oriented components of system innovation by the water sector may actually impede the successful implementation and use of innovative, potentially more sustainable, water and sanitation systems. This paper suggests what is needed is an approach to system innovation that takes daily discourses, community knowledge, practices and the localised contexts of water users as critical in influencing the successful uptake of small-scale innovative water systems.
Fam, D.M., Mitchell, C.A., Abeysuriya, K. & Lopes, A. 2014, 'Emergence of decentralised water and sanitation systems in Melbourne, Australia', International Journal of Water, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 149-165.
View/Download from: Publisher's site
In Melbourne, Australia, a shift is occurring in the approach to wastewater management. With increased pressure from landscape drivers such as population growth, urbanisation, and over a decade of extended drought conditions, a new model of wastewater management is being explored by Melbourne?s metropolitan water utilities in the development of their latest Metropolitan Sewerage Strategy (MSS).With input from key industry leaders and a broad range of stakeholders a collaborative ?vision? of sustainable sewerage services to Melbourne over a 50 year timeframe was developed with decentralised systems emerging as a key, long-term component of service delivery. Drawing on the multi-level perspective (MLP), we investigate the interrelated and reinforcing factors that have driven this shift in perception toward decentralised systems and serious consideration of alternative socio-technical configurations of wastewater management in Melbourne?s future planning strategy. We then explore the process in which cross disciplinary participants from industry, government and civil society articulated their vision of a long term sustainable sanitation future for Melbourne.
Fam, D.M. 2014, 'Can urban water policy reflect actual water use behaviour?', Bridging: newsletter of the Peter Cullen Water & Environment Trust, vol. Winter, no. 11, pp. 6-7.
Palmer, J.M., Fam, D.M., Smith, T. & Kilham, S. 2014, 'Ethics in Fieldwork: Reflections on the Unexpected', The Qualitative Report, vol. 19, no. 28, pp. 1-13.
Research involving fieldwork can present the researcher with ethical dilemmas not anticipated in institutional ethics approval processes, and which offer profound personal and methodological challenges. The authors' experiences of conducting qualitative fieldwork in four distinctly different contexts are used to illustrate some of these unexpected consequences and ethical dilemmas. Issues encountered included: compromised relationships with informants which develop in unforeseen ways; engagement with traumatized informants which lead to unexpected roles for the researcher such as confidante, dealing with new information that is critical to informants' futures but could undermine the research project, and the implications of ethical decisions for research design and analysis. In our shared reflection on the four case studies in this paper, we examine anticipatory rather than reactive ways of dealing with such ethical dilemmas. Preparation and critical reflection are found to be key tools in relating to field informants, dealing with the personal challenges of undertaking field work, and developing useful research outcomes after returning home. We conclude by suggesting some issues for field researchers to consider in addition to the concerns addressed in a standard university ethics approval process.
Fam, D.M., Mitchell, C.A., Abeysuriya, K. & Meeks, T. 2013, 'Facilitating organisational learning to support decision making and planning for sustainability in the water sector', Water Policy, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 1094-1108.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
This paper investigates the process of organisational learning in decision making and planning for sustainability in the water sector. A Melbourne water utility (Yarra Valley Water) trialling sustainable systems of service provision utilised multi-stakeholder experiences to facilitate learning within the organisation. Diverse perspectives of the trial were sought through 50 interviews with staff managing/operating/maintaining the system and household residents using the system. Outcomes from interviews were shared with the project team in a social learning workshop and translated into recommendations for trialling innovation within the water utility and more broadly within the Australian water sector. The facilitated process of organisational learning highlighted the importance of crossdepartmental communication and co-operation, reflective processes of management and the value of a `transdisciplinary approach to planning and implementing novel systems of service provision. The outcome was the development of new procedures to support integrated knowledge development in trialling innovation within Yarra Valley Water.
Abeysuriya, K., Fam, D.M. & Mitchell, C.A. 2013, 'Trialling urine diversion in Australia: technical and social learnings', Water Science and Technology, vol. 68, no. 10, pp. 2186-2194.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
This paper discusses a urine diversion (UD) trial implemented within the institutional setting of the University of Technology Sydney that sought to identify key issues for public UD and reuse systems at scale in the Australian urban context. The trial was novel in its transdisciplinary action research approach, that included consideration of urine diverting toilets (UDTs) as socio-technical systems where interactions between users' practices and perceptions and the performance of the technology were explored. While the study explored a broad range of issues that included urine transport, reuse, and regulations, amongst others, the boundary of the work presented in this paper is the practicalities of UD practice within public urban buildings. Urine volume per urinal use, an important metric for sizing tanks for collecting urine from waterless urinal systems in commercial buildings, was also estimated. The project concluded that current UDTs are unsuitable to public/commercial spaces, but waterless urinals have a key role.
Fam, D.M. & Mitchell, C.A. 2013, 'Sustainable innovation in wastewater management: Lessons for nutrient recovery and reuse', Local Environment, vol. 18, no. 7, pp. 769-780.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Urine diversion (UD) has great potential to contribute to sustainably managing wastewater by separating urine at the source and recovering nutrients for reuse in agriculture. While factors enabling the UD technology in Sweden are thought to involve policies supporting nutrient recovery/reuse, on closer inspection, the variable success of UD systems has revealed that critical factors for success also relate to human-centred issues of social organisation, participation and incorporation of social knowledges of a variety of stakeholders into the decision-making process in which new technologies are trialled and adopted. Through the analytical lens of strategic niche management, we consider how early experimentation in UD has involved user participation and whether internal processes of learning, networking and visioning have been consciously considered and to what effect. As niche experiments are enabled/disabled not only by informal institutions such as values and social norms but also formal regulatory institutions, we have concurrently analysed the broader environment in which policies and institutions influence, to varying degrees, the uptake of UD
Lopes, A., Fam, D.M. & Williams, J. 2012, 'Designing sustainable sanitation: involving design in innovative, transdisciplinary research', Design Studies, vol. 33, no. 3, pp. 298-317.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
This paper introduces an innovative pilot project where an alternative system of sanitation to capture, treat and reuse urine in agricultural trials is being undertaken in a university setting. The paper outlines the emerging theory and practise of Transition Management (TM) and identifies a lack of attention to the end-user in transition experiments to date. This project situates design as a core component in the social process of transitioning to a novel system of sanitation. Students across two design schools developed visual prototypes to introduce the project to the target audiences, which were tested during a pre-pilot installation. Initial results support the guiding hypothesis that design has a critical role to play in facilitating social learning in system innovation.
Abeysuriya, K., Fam, D.M. & Mitchell, C.A. 2012, 'Reinventing the toilet - Urine diversion where its needed most', The Conversation, vol. 24 October.
Fam, D.M. & Abeysuriya, K. 2011, 'Toilet talk', WME Magazine, vol. 22, no. 4, pp. 32-32.
Fam, D.M., Mellick-Lopes, A., Willetts, J.R. & Mitchell, C.A. 2009, 'The challenge of system change: an historical analysis of Sydney's sewer systems', Design Philosophy Papers, vol. 3/2009, pp. 1-14.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Despite the obvious health benefits of the sanitary revolution and construction of sewered systems, there are increasing doubts about the long term sustainability of centralised, water-based sanitation. Growing uncertainties such as rapid population growth, emergence of new pollutants, changing hydrological conditions in relation to climate change and global economic instability will require systems to be more open to `flexible and reflexive approaches1 in meeting future sanitation needs. The highly inflexible nature of existing sanitation systems burdened with over a century of capital infrastructure investment and assets that require 30-50 years to pay back, make centralised sanitation both economically unsustainable and institutionally rigid. Social practices associated with water borne sanitation have been embedded within western society for over a century making `radical½ system change and the introduction of alternative technologies and habits of practice challenging.

Other

Fam, D.M. 2014, 'People and Practices: Fostering transitions toward sustainability through transdisciplinary inquiry and individual, social and organisational learning'.
The goal of this thesis is to take people and practices as the primary focus in analysing past and emerging case studies of transitions in sanitation. 'Transitions', as structural changes in the way societal systems operate, are increasingly acknowledged as necessary for meeting sustainability goals. Uncertainties such as rapid population growth, the emergence of new pollutants, changing hydrological conditions, climate change impacts, global economic instability and declining phosphorus reserves are driving innovation and transitions in sanitation. Integral to the process of transitioning toward sustainability are 'people and practices' and yet the tendency of innovation scholars is to focus on technological factors and systems of supply. This ignores the importance of the human dimensions of technological change. In light of this knowledge gap, the objective of this thesis is to investigate how 'people and practices' are involved in technological change and in the emergence of sustainable systems of sanitation. Practices in this thesis are discussed at the level of using novel technologies (implicating end-users) and the level of planning, designing and managing the installation of novel technologies (implicating project teams). Complementary to the overarching framework of transition management, this transdisciplinary perspective of 'practices' draws on literature from practice theory, social and organisational learning and communities of practice. Six case studies of transitions in sanitation, over three cycles of research, provide insight into how transitions have historically occurred, are occurring at present and might be more readily facilitated in the future. The diverse range of cases span temporal (historical and real-time cases), geographic (local and international cases) and spatial (community and city scale cases) scales with a primary focus on the emergence of urine diversion (UD) in Sweden and Australia. The sociological perspective adopted to stu...

Reports

Fam, D.M., Turner, A., Latimer, G., Liu, A., Giurco, D. & Starr, P. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2017, Convergence of the waste and water sectors: risks, opportunities and future trends – discussion paper, pp. 1-24, Sydney, Australia.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS
The aim of this discussion paper is to bring to light the increasing convergence of the water and waste sectors and the associated risks, benefits, and future trends already on the horizon. Current examples of convergence in managing coal seam gas (CSG), food waste, fats, oils and grease (FOG) and biosolids, provide insights into not only the risks to public and environmental health of waste streams that cross sectoral boundaries but also potential opportunities for the water and waste sectors to seize as business opportunities. What is clear is that convergence between these sectors is already happening and in some cases there are adverse environmental consequences and associated health impacts. A key message from this research is the need to take an integrated and coordinated approach to planning and regulating the convergence of the water and waste sectors. Key recommendations to manage the risks associated with cross sector convergence of the water and waste sectors include facilitating: (1) increased engagement between regulators of each sector, (2) greater communication across sectors (3) a co-ordinated approach and plan to managing waste streams, (4) the development of monitoring and evaluation frameworks that cross sectors and (5) a coordinated approach to the assessment of research needs.
Mitchell, C.A., Fam, D.M. & Abeysuriya, K. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2013, Transitioning to sustainable sanitation: a transdisciplinary pilot project of urine diversion, pp. 1-137, Sydney.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Mitchell, C.A., Fam, D.M. & Abeysuriya, K. Institute of Sustainable Futures 2011, Mutual Learning for Social Change: Using social research to support the introduction of urine diverting toilets in the Kinglake West Sewerage Project, pp. 1-23, Sydney.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Fam, D.M., Mitchell, C.A. & Abeysuriya, K. Prepared for Yarra Valley water by the Institute of Sustainable Futures 2010, Kinglake mutual learning for social change project - international and local review of user manuals for urine diverting toilets, pp. 1-16, University of Technology, Sydney.
International and local review if urine diversion instructional material for users
Mitchell, C.A., Fam, D.M. & Cordell, D.J. Water Environment Research Foundation 2010, Effectively managing the transition towards restorative futures in the sewage industry: a phosphorus case study p.84-97 in 'Water Sustainability and International Innovation: The Baltimore Charter - A Transformation in Managing Water', pp. 83-96, Vermont, USA.
The water and sewage industry globally is at a transformation point. Whilst infrastructure is ageing, pressures are increasing and expectations are shifting towards quite different kinds of outcomes, including restorative futures that have a net positive impact. There is a growing realization that conventional approaches will struggle to deliver these kinds of outcomes, so new approaches are necessary. The emerging field of transition management offers some guidance for how to strategically manage a transition toward a restorative future. Phosphate scarcity will be a significant pressure and opportunity for new forms of sewage management in the medium term, so phosphorus recovery from sewage makes a particularly interesting case study for applying transition thinkin
Mitchell, C.A., Abeysuriya, K. & Fam, D.M. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2008, Development of qualitative decentralized system concepts for the 2009 Metropolitan Sewerage Strategy. vol 1: synthesis report, Sydney, Australia.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Mitchell, C.A., Abeysuriya, K. & Fam, D.M. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2008, Development of qualitative decentralized system concepts for the 2009 Metropolitan Sewerage Strategy. vol 2: concepts and case studies, Sydney, Australia.