Water Governance: Concepts, Policy and Practice (Online)

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Building on the experience of AKU’s British Academy water research project, this two-day online course will introduce participants to major themes and policy frameworks in water governance with a focus on experiences of community-based water management in the Global South. The course aims to equip participants with perspectives to inform practical engagements in the water sector. A blend of presentation, discussion and short tasks spread over four sessions will introduce key academic and policy ideas.

Learning Objectives 

Session one: What is Water?

This session will introduce water as an object of enquiry that combines material, technical, and political attributes. Conceptual frameworks from contemporary social science will form a basis to analyse dominant approaches to water management.

Session two: Commons, Commodity, Rights

We will explore key debates in water management through three influential ways of understanding water: as commons, commodity and right. Participants will be able to discuss a range of ideas from within these perspectives as well as the differences between them.

Session three: Policy and Politics

Introducing the broad global changes and patterns that influence water governance today, we will consider key global policies, including the Sustainable Development Goals and Human Right to Water, and processes of water politics at different scales.

Session four: Community-Based Water Management

We close by outlining ideas of best practice in community water management as well as important criticisms of the approach. Starting with the idea of community as a powerful ‘myth’, we will discuss the content and challenges of community based water management in practice.

Download course structure.

*The course will be delivered via Zoom. Readings and further details will be provided later upon registration.

Course Convenors:

Dr Matt Birkinshaw is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Aga Khan University's Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC) studying community water management in Northern Pakistan. His wider research draws on political economy, ethnography and historical perspectives to think about water, infrastructure and urbanisation in the Global South. Matt has previously worked as a researcher with Lancaster University and LSE Cities, and taught at LUMS (Pakistan) and LSE (London). His doctoral work at LSE focussed on water governance and reform in Delhi.

Dr Anna Grieser is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Aga Khan University's Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC). On this position, she is contributing to a BA funded project that investigates the sustainability of rural and urban community-based water supplies in Gilgit-Baltistan. Previously, she worked with AKRSP on community-based hydropower management, wrote articles on doing research in Gilgit-Baltistan as well as a book on water management, insecurity and uncertainty in Gilgit.


28 and 30 April 2021 (09:00 – 13:00, London Time).


Participants should have some awareness of, or interest in, development issues; familiarity with Zoom tools; a good internet connection; and access to MS Teams. Participants will be expected to have completed all required readings prior to each session.

Tickets and Booking:

The number of tickets is limited. Book as soon as possible.


Aga Khan University's Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, London.

Contact Info: 

Layal Mohammad

Senior Coordinator, Marketing & Communications
Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations
The Aga Khan University (International)
Aga Khan Centre, 10 Handyside Street, London N1C 4DN
Email: layal.n.mohammad@aku.edu

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