Social learning for collective action on climate change

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Social learning for collective action on climate change A critical assessment Blane Harvey, International Development Research Centre

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Overview Tackling "wicked" problems under global environmental change What is social learning? Critiques of SL in theory and practice Where next?

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Learning to tackle complex challenges

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On complexity and multiple ways of knowing...

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Tackling "wicked" problems Wicked problems are characterized by: uncertainty; inconsistency of needs, preferences and values; an unclear sense of all consequences and/or cumulative impact of collective action; fluid, heterogeneous, pluralist participation in problem definition and solving Turnpenny et al (2009) “Not only must science concede some of its governance to wider society, it must also concede some ground to other ways of knowing. (Hulme 2009: 81)

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Climate change adaptation is one such 'wicked’ problem, and social learning is seen as an important avenue for responding.

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The learning paradox “Our existing methodological toolbox is sparsely equipped to facilitate and sustain [...] adaptive and anticipatory learning in the face of complex risks and uncertainties.” Tschakert & Dietrich 2010 And yet We recognise the paramount importance of learning in addressing complex environmental challenges.... “deficit models” Banking models Knowledge hierarchies

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Social Learning – A way forward?

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Social Learning: Toward a definition Social learning brings together stakeholders with diverse perspectives to learn together and form an understanding of a shared challenge. It involves taking learning and behaviour change beyond the individual to networks and systems. Through an iterative process of working and reflecting together new shared ways of knowing emerge that lead to changes in practice. See Reed et al. 2010 “What is Social Learning?”

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Social learning - a closer look Roots: Learning and behavioural psychology (Bandura) Collective learning (Argyris and Schon, Wenger) Transformative learning (Mezirow) Emancipatory learning (Freire) Participation? As performance? Governance? Collective action? Many flavours of SL.

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Analysis of 29 cases looking at: Lessons and Principles Tools and approaches Evaluation Impacts Harvey et al 2013

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Reflecting critically on SL Power and consensus - strange bedfellows Is a change of views always a good thing? Recognition of problem w/o power to change leads to frustration Challenge of entrenched marginalisation Sustainability of change? Scale and institutionalisation major challenges Evidence of impact and outcomes? How to evaluate them? See also Muro & Jeffrey 2008

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So where next?

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A gut instinct tells us that social learning inherently makes sense, but making that leap forward into practicing the principles of good social learning and overturning the more top-down models of knowledge creation and information delivery needs more concrete evidence. Transforming institutions Transforming research

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In a nutshell It’s social learning on social learning!

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Transforming the evidence base Hypothesis A: Social learning improves institutional processes and performance/effectiveness in the context of climate change. Hypothesis B: Social learning processes lead to improved development outcomes/results in the context of climate change.

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Kristjanson et al 2014, Nature Climate Change

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Want to know more? Thank you!