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Monitoring Social Learning Processes in Adaptive Comanagement: Three Case Studies from South Africa

Georgina Cundill, Department of Environmental Science, Rhodes University, South Africa; The Sustainability Science Unit, Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Stellenbosch, South Africa.

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Abstract

Learning provides the basis for fostering transitions toward adaptive comanagement. Understanding the ways in which arenas for collaboration and learning are created, and the outcomes of these processes in different contexts, is therefore crucial. This paper presents the results of an experimental research process that identified a small set of key variables that influence effective collaboration and learning, and tested a methodology for monitoring these in a collaborative way in three case studies in South Africa. The small set of key variables tested in this study was sensitive enough to register change over a period of 18 months. Results suggest that the background conditions necessary for social learning can be externally managed during an initiative, with positive outcomes for collaboration and learning. Monitoring outcomes suggest that for learning to be effective, a balance needs to be sought between maintaining key individuals within the system, preventing rigidity and vulnerability when this is achieved, and encouraging active participation within communities of practice. Effective facilitation by an ‘honest broker’ is one of the ways in which this can be achieved. The results point to an over simplification in the rhetoric that currently surrounds the learning outcomes of multilevel networks, and challenges the idea that democratic structures are necessarily important for effective natural resource management at the community level.

Key words

adaptive comanagement; collaboration; learning; monitoring
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087