|Title||Formalised and non-formalised methods in resource management- knowledge and social learning in participatory processes: an introduction|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2008|
|Authors||Newig J., Haberl H., Pahl-Wostl C., Rothman D.S.|
|Journal||Systemic Practice and Action Research|
|Keywords||collective learning, Communication, complexity, conflicts of interest, land-use planning, modelling, social learning, stakeholder involvement, sustainable learning, system dynamics, trans-disciplinary research, uncertainty, water management|
Introduction to special issue, reviewing and discussing participatory processes and social learning in natural resource management.
This article highlights the emergence of participatory processes within natural resource and environmental decision-making. Various methods, models, tools and instruments that foster learning in participatory processes are discussed. A key aspect of learning within participatory approaches is the degree to which these processes are formalised, influencing the degree and type of communication that is possible. The goals and context characteristics that shape participatory processes should inform the degree of formalisation. These goals and characteristics may change throughout the life of a participatory process. Context-dependency has a number of implications for learning within participatory processes: (i) the process should inform methods, rather than the other way around; (ii) comparative research should be used to help inform the potential and limitations of different methods; and (iii) the choice, dynamics and success of methods in a range of cultural and social-ecological settings needs improved understanding.
Communication and interaction of different actors and actor groups in a participatory setting is believed to result in a set of social outcomes, such as the generation of new knowledge, the acquisition of technical and social skills as well as the development of trust and relationships. This has the potential to encourage common understanding of the system or problem at hand, collective agreement on possible solutions and, most importantly, action. A key message for adaptive learning is the importance of building flexibility and an open-minded attitude into participatory processes. For example, within the scope of particular goals or contexts, a greater level of formalisation may sometimes be beneficial or appropriate. Similarly, this may change at various stages of the process, where more informal approaches may be needed. The same is true for the methods being employed. Adaptive learning requires an ability to be constantly open to change, not only among participants but among facilitators. All individuals and groups are learning together. This places great demands on those who are co-ordinating the process, not only in regard to the range of technical skills required but other management and leadership skills as well. This should be given careful consideration.