|Title||Social learning through evaluation: a case study of overcoming constraints for management of dryland salinity|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2009|
|Keywords||collaborative learning, community engagement, environmental policy, monitoring, participation, social learning, sustainable learning|
To demonstrate the use of a social learning approach for evaluating public environmental programs This paper shows how a social learning approach can be incorporated into evaluating public environmental programs, and presents an Australian case study of dry-land salinity management where there are major knowledge barriers impeding conventional management techniques.
Evaluating environmental program effectiveness can be limited within conventional approaches. This article presents a novel method of evaluation incorporating a social learning approach. This approach is seen to be particularly appropriate where it is necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of programs seeking to influence complex, dynamic and uncertain management environments. The evaluation method is applied within the context of dryland salinity management, evaluating a specific program through all phases of its delivery including design, implementation and monitoring. The approach demonstrates the promotion of collective action, critical reflection, and improved knowledge in a management environment characterised by significant knowledge barriers. While social learning can help to address key constraints related to complexity and assists with building the trust necessary to manage effectively, it also requires some level of prior agreement by participants as well as effective facilitation. Two conditions are identified for incorporating social learning into program evaluation: (i) when feedback is timely within the duration of the program; and (ii) when feedback is used to adjust the design and implementation of the program.
This article provides another example of the use of a social learning approach to assist appraisal, in this case the evaluation of public environmental programs. A critical lesson for adaptive learning is the timeliness of feedback when undertaking evaluation and reflection. Feedback should provide the opportunity for participants to create meaningful adjustments to specific programs, encouraging active adaptation based on emerging information and knowledge, and maximising the potential for learning.