Schusler T.M., Decker D.J., Pfeffer M.J.. 2003. Social learning for collaborative natural resource management. Society & Natural Resources.. 16


To contribute insights into the potential and limitations of social learning within collaborative processes of natural resource management

Geographic Focus: 


Key Findings: 

This article contends that there is limited conceptual and empirical understanding of social learning within the sustainability and natural resource management literature. The authors attempt to improve this understanding, identifying a number of process characteristics that foster social learning. It is noted that, while social learning is necessary for collaborative management, other fundamental process elements need to be considered such as capacity and a supportive policy environment, which may themselves be developed through the vehicle of social learning itself. There was an identified need for further research on how actions are sustained such as, for example, from deliberative events as described in this study. It was also seen to be important to understand social learning at different levels of organisation and interaction, as well as the diffusion of this learning through communities. Experimentation and explicit processes of learning from experimentation are seen to be critical.


Learning can be viewed as both process and outcome. A shared goal, vision or outcome is needed within collaborative learning initiatives, as it is the shared outcome that helps to generate purpose and direction. However, this is achieved or encouraged through particular processes, as identified in this article. These processes occur across a range of spatial, temporal, and institutional scales, and it is these issues of scale that seem to be particularly challenging for efforts aimed at adaptive learning. It is also true that the processes that occur within the learning environment cannot be isolated, but that broader systemic processes are needed to support and sustain learning.