|Title||A conceptual framework for analysing adaptive capacity and multi-level learning processes in resource governance regimes|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2009|
|Journal||Global Environmental Change|
|Keywords||adaptive capacity, Adaptive governance, climate change adaptation, complexity, institutions, natural resource management, social learning, sustainable learning, water governance|
Develops a conceptual framework to evaluate the dynamics and adaptive capacity of resource governance regimes in multi-level learning processes
Governance failures are central to many natural resource management problems, and yet there remains limited knowledge of how governance regimes change. An analytical framework is presented, which characterises governance regimes as multi-level learning processes. Within this framework, structural characteristics of governance regimes are identified as: (i) formal and informal institutions; (ii) state and non-state actors; (iii) multi-level interactions; and (iv) relative importance within bureaucratic hierarchies, markets and networks. Change is viewed as a social or societal learning process that moves step-wise from single to double, and triple loop learning. The authors present this conceptual framework as one way of emphasising a more systematic approach to analysing the structural characteristics of governance regimes and their influence on adaptive capacity and processes of dynamic social learning. Informal networks are considered to play critical roles in learning processes, although both formal and informal have relevance depending on goals and context. While governance regimes with greater complexity and diversity have enhanced adaptive capacity, single loop learning nonetheless tends to dominate adaptation responses. Greater sharing of relevant conceptual models and inter-disciplinary research approaches are needed in order to increase diagnostic capacity and to better inform policy in complex resource governance issues.
The structural characteristics of governance regimes identified in this article draw attention to the hierarchy of multiple adaptive cycles operating within complex management environments. Rather than polarising or creating dichotomous relationships between system elements, an adaptive learning approach conceptualises a continuum of options that are available according to specific circumstances, in particular the management context. This is key to diversity. A step-wise process is described in this article, moving from single to double and triple loop learning. From an adaptive learning perspective, it may also be important to view loop learning as a continuum rather than emphasising directional movement, that is, that governance should always be moving from single toward triple loop learning. From an adaptive learning perspective all forms of learning are recognised as having value, depending on goals and context.