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Review of factors influencing social learning within participatory environmental governance

Anna Ernst, Forschungszentrum Jülich; Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster


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Participatory environmental governance might foster social learning, which could lead to the necessary process of social change toward sustainable development. However, current research is still largely inconclusive regarding how and under what conditions participatory environmental governance enhances social learning. Here, my aim is to improve the understanding of how participatory framework conditions influence social learning and to provide a reference point for future research. I conducted a narrative literature review, consolidating multifaceted empirical research to identify and discuss factors that explain social learning. The literature comprised 72 publications and resulted in 11 factors that are highly interconnected. These interconnections denote the causes of social learning. However, some factors such as the personal characteristics of participants have only been marginally investigated. In addition, although cognitive change is theoretically an essential element of social learning, it has rarely been investigated in the reviewed studies. Knowledge acquisition was assessed most often, but does not always lead to cognitive change. A research gap was identified between what is theoretically discussed as social learning processes and what is empirically analyzed. This review therefore presents the state of knowledge about how participatory environmental governance fosters social learning and suggests future research.

Key words

environmental governance; evaluating participation; participation; review; social learning

Copyright © 2019 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087