Soft systems thinking and social learning for adaptive management

Cundill, G., Cumming, G.S., Biggs, D., and Fabricius, C. (2012) Soft systems thinking and social learning for adaptive management. Conservation Biology, 26 (1). pp. 13-20.

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Abstract

The success of adaptive management in conservation has been questioned and the objective-based management paradigm on which it is based has been heavily criticized. Soft systems thinking and social-learning theory expose errors in the assumption that complex systems can be dispassionately managed by objective observers and highlight the fact that conservation is a social process in which objectives are contested and learning is context dependent. We used these insights to rethink adaptive management in a way that focuses on the social processes involved in management and decision making. Our approach to adaptive management is based on the following assumptions: action toward a common goal is an emergent property of complex social relationships; the introduction of new knowledge, alternative values, and new ways of understanding the world can become a stimulating force for learning, creativity, and change; learning is contextual and is fundamentally about practice; and defining the goal to be addressed is continuous and in principle never ends. We believe five key activities are crucial to defining the goal that is to be addressed in an adaptive-management context and to determining the objectives that are desirable and feasible to the participants: situate the problem in its social and ecological context; raise awareness about alternative views of a problem and encourage enquiry and deconstruction of frames of reference; undertake collaborative actions; and reflect on learning.

Item ID: 22654
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1523-1739
Keywords: appreciative systems, communities of practice, complexity, social engagement, complejidad, compromiso social, comunidades practicantes, sistemas apreciativos
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2012 10:05
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 50%
17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1702 Cognitive Science > 170202 Decision Making @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960899 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity of Environments not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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