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Learning from one another: evaluating the impact of horizontal knowledge exchange for environmental management and governance

Céline Tschirhart, Royal Holloway University of London, UK
Jayalaxshmi Mistry, Royal Holloway University of London, UK
Andrea Berardi, The Open University, UK
Elisa Bignante, University of Torino, Italy
Matthew Simpson, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (Consulting) Ltd, UK
Lakeram Haynes, North Rupununi District Development Board, Guyana
Ryan Benjamin, North Rupununi District Development Board, Guyana
Grace Albert, North Rupununi District Development Board, Guyana
Rebecca Xavier, North Rupununi District Development Board, Guyana
Bernie Robertson, North Rupununi District Development Board, Guyana
Odacy Davis, Iwokrama International Centre, Guyana
Caspar Verwer, IUCN National Committee of The Netherlands, The Netherlands
Géraud de Ville, The Open University, UK
Deirdre Jafferally, Iwokrama International Centre, Guyana


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There is increasing advocacy for inclusive community-based approaches to environmental management, and growing evidence that involving communities improves the sustainability of social-ecological systems. Most community-based approaches rely on partnerships and knowledge exchange between communities, civil society organizations, and professionals such as practitioners and/or scientists. However, few models have actively integrated more horizontal knowledge exchange from community to community. We reflect on the transferability of community owned solutions between indigenous communities by exploring challenges and achievements of community peer-to-peer knowledge exchange as a way of empowering communities to face up to local environmental and social challenges. Using participatory visual methods, indigenous communities of the North Rupununi (Guyana) identified and documented their community owned solutions through films and photostories. Indigenous researchers from this community then shared their solutions with six other communities that faced similar challenges within Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela, Colombia, French Guiana, and Brazil. They were supported by in-country civil society organizations and academics. We analyzed the impact of the knowledge exchange through interviews, field reports, and observations. Our results show that indigenous community members were significantly more receptive to solutions emerging from, and communicated by, other indigenous peoples, and that this approach was a significant motivating force for galvanizing communities to make changes in their community. We identified a range of enabling factors, such as building capacity for a shared conceptual and technical understanding, that strengthens the exchange between communities and contributes to a lasting impact. With national and international policy-makers mobilizing significant financial resources for biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation, we argue that the promotion of community owned solutions through community peer-to-peer exchange may deliver more long-lasting, socially and ecologically integrated, and investment-effective strategies compared to top-down, expert led, and/or foreign-led initiatives.

Key words

best practices, community owned solutions, environmental governance, Guiana Shield, Guyana, indigenous, knowledge exchange, participatory, visual

Copyright © 2016 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