“More than the sum of its parts” – A brief reflection on the One Ocean Hub closing conference

By Philile Mbatha

The GCRF One Ocean Hub closing conference took place from 20-24 May 2024 in Cape Town, South Africa with approximately 100 participants from the Hub-wide network in attendance. The week-long workshop set out to celebrate the Hub’s five-year journey, making space to reflect on what we set out to achieve at the beginning of the Hub and what was learned along the way, as well as looking forward to what comes next.

planning the closing conference
photo: Clare Thomas

In the months leading up to the closing conference, a co-design team was formed to craft and develop the conference agenda. The co-design team comprised members of the Hub’s support team and researchers, including early career researchers, and employed a co-design process that generated a diverse array of ideas informing and shaping sessions at the conference. These activities were designed to harness individual and collective narratives and stories from Hub researchers and partners about their journeys and experiences in participating in the Hub, and to help gather further evidence of the impacts emanating from the work of the Hub and the research therein.

reconnecting with collective mapping

There was a strong emphasis on fostering an open environment for rich and constructive dialogue throughout the closing conference. The initial days of the conference were dedicated to allowing Hub researchers to reconnect with one another through collective mapping of the history of the Hub, i.e., where we started, what we set out to do, what changed over the years and what opportunities and challenges emerged, building successive layers outwards from those who were there from the beginning, and those who joined along the way.

photo: Clare Thomas
key findings from hub research

Hub researchers also explored key findings that emerged from Hub research, including the achievements, outcomes, and impacts that emerged from it. Wednesday saw the group expand with the arrival of Hub partners and collaborators, with the day spent in celebration and recognition of the Hub’s innovative research methodologies and impacts, with visits to a recently launched exhibition on ocean conservation in Cape Town, and an afternoon showcase at Bertha House where Hub researchers and partners presented a broad array of outputs and impacts ranging from arts- and theatre -based work, to scientific posters, documentaries, images, and live demonstrations of augmented reality and innovative fishing net weaving techniques.

photos: Clare Thomas
photo: Clare Thomas

The final days were spent reflecting on how communities, partners and decision-makers were engaged in Hub research, resulting in meaningful impact and transformation on the ground. There was a significant shift in the ambience within the conference throughout these final days, as discussions transcended from broader Hub impact stories to individuals sharing reflections on how the Hub impacted them personally, which subsequently led into discussions exploring new and emerging research agendas and pathways for future research and legacy.

moving forward
photo: Clare Thomas

The opportunity to come together in-person at the closing conference provided a much-needed platform to take stock of how far the Hub has come since the early days of establishing the network, and to prepare for a future iteration of the Hub. What was apparent was not only that the Hub became much more than the sum of its parts, but also a sense that we have participated in and contributed to the beginnings of a new era for transdisciplinary ocean research. The Hub has strived to curate a transdisciplinary space which has proved both complex and consistently challenging, but also incredibly rewarding for those who have fully engaged throughout, paving the way for future transformative ocean research and governance approaches.

The One Ocean Hub support team would like to extend sincere thanks to all who participated and helped to make the event a success. A closing conference report will be available in the coming weeks.

One ocean hub legacy

Learn more about the Hub’s legacy plans here. For more information on how to become part of the future of the One Ocean Hub – please contact Hub researcher Nina Rivers.

photo: Clare Thomas

Related SDGs:

  • Good health and well-being
  • Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • Reduced inequality
  • Sustainable cities and communities
  • Climate action
  • Life below water
  • Peace, justice and strong institutions
  • Partnership for the goals