Tschakert P., Dietrich K.A. 2010. Anticipatory learning for climate change adaptation and resilience. Ecology and Society. 15(2)


To identify opportunities and barriers for anticipatory learning to enhance adaptation and resilience to climate change shock

Geographic Focus: 


Key Findings: 

Anticipatory learning is viewed as a key element of adaptation and resilience to climate change. This article attempts to integrate the concepts of resilience and action research/action learning. It is felt that an important opportunity for this integration is in building the adaptive and anticipatory learning spaces within vulnerable populations. These learning environments are described as iterative, participatory, experiential, reflective, action-oriented, visioning spaces where power and existing norms are challenged and re-negotiated. A methodological framework is presented to facilitate and implement this type of learning space. The authors recognise and highlight some of the real challenges of implementing this learning space “on the ground.” This includes the need for adequate protection of vulnerable communities from risks and failures that may result from experimentation and innovation. Although building agency and empowering learning spaces can spread risk, protective support across all levels of the nested hierarchy is needed. This also requires a strong normative stance of resilience within the affected community, as it relates to the meaning of resilience and for whom it applies. The article proposes that more knowledge in itself is not an adequate response. What is needed is an improved focus on how existing knowledge is made accessible and the way in which it encourages empowered action.


The integration of conceptual aspects of resilience and action research/action learning presented in this article synthesises an important set of implications for learning and adaptation. These implications are essential to creating deliberative learning spaces based on action and reflection. Importantly, the article also has a strongly pragmatic approach, recognising that academic solutions need to make sense within the affected communities. The article argues that adequate reflection and anticipatory decision making may provide vulnerable populations with the tools and capacity to become proactive, adaptive agents of change. For example, it is proposed that communication of risk to vulnerable communities is critical to facilitate this type of learning. However, full and open communication of risk is often immersed in political and/or legal issues, or simply “triggers anxieties”, which effectively creates a barrier to this learning. Ultimately, in the context of adaptation to climate risk, adaptive learning is seen as an alternative to learning through shock.