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Resilient Social Relationships and Collaboration in the Management of Social–Ecological Systems

Abraham B. Nkhata, Centre for Environment, Agriculture and Development, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Charles M. Breen, Centre for Environment, Agriculture and Development, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Wayne A. Freimund, Department of Society and Conservation, The University of Montana


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This paper proposes and articulates a social relationships perspective of collaboration in the management of social–ecological systems (SESs). It provides a conceptual premise for understanding the dynamics of long-term social relationships that underlie collaborative processes. We argue that a resilience approach offers a better perspective for the study of change in long-term relationships. A conceptual framework based on the theories of resilience and social relationships is developed for analyzing the evolution of collaborative schemes. The essence of the framework is to facilitate understanding and building of resilient social relationships for effective collaboration through interpreting and managing relational change. We suggest that an analysis of resilient social relationships requires an understanding of the complexity and extent of relational change. The elements of a behavioral approach to relationships theory are discussed as a foundation for resilient social relationships. By incorporating the models of Holling (1995) and Cousins (2002) into a behavioral approach to relationships theory, the framework we propose can be used to determine the potential for change based on the amount of relational capital and the degree of relational connectedness in long-term social relationships.

Key words

collaboration; relational capital; relational change; relational connectedness; resilience; social relationships; social-ecological systems
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087