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Rethinking Social Barriers to Effective Adaptive Management
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
Number of Authors: 3
2016 (English)In: Environmental Management, ISSN 0364-152X, E-ISSN 1432-1009, Vol. 58, no 3, 399-416 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Adaptive management is an approach to environmental management based on learning-by-doing, where complexity, uncertainty, and incomplete knowledge are acknowledged and management actions are treated as experiments. However, while adaptive management has received significant uptake in theory, it remains elusively difficult to enact in practice. Proponents have blamed social barriers and have called for social science contributions. We address this gap by adopting a qualitative approach to explore the development of an ecological monitoring program within an adaptive management framework in a public land management organization in Australia. We ask what practices are used to enact the monitoring program and how do they shape learning? We elicit a rich narrative through extensive interviews with a key individual, and analyze the narrative using thematic analysis. We discuss our results in relation to the concept of 'knowledge work' and Westley's (2002) framework for interpreting the strategies of adaptive managers-'managing through, in, out and up.' We find that enacting the program is conditioned by distinct and sometimes competing logics-scientific logics prioritizing experimentation and learning, public logics emphasizing accountability and legitimacy, and corporate logics demanding efficiency and effectiveness. In this context, implementing adaptive management entails practices of translation to negotiate tensions between objective and situated knowledge, external experts and organizational staff, and collegiate and hierarchical norms. Our contribution embraces the 'doing' of learning-by-doing and marks a shift from conceptualizing the social as an external barrier to adaptive management to be removed to an approach that situates adaptive management as social knowledge practice.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 58, no 3, 399-416 p.
Keyword [en]
Adaptive management, Narrative, Qualitative, Practice, Knowledge work, Learning
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-134405DOI: 10.1007/s00267-016-0721-3ISI: 000380676300003PubMedID: 27351578OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-134405DiVA: diva2:1039808
Available from: 2016-10-25 Created: 2016-10-06 Last updated: 2016-11-11Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Meaning and Action in Sustainability Science: Interpretive approaches for social-ecological systems research
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Meaning and Action in Sustainability Science: Interpretive approaches for social-ecological systems research
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Social-ecological systems research is interventionist by nature. As a subset of sustainability science, social-ecological systems research aims to generate knowledge and introduce concepts that will bring about transformation. Yet scientific concepts diverge in innumerable ways when they are put to work in the world. Why are concepts used in quite different ways to the intended purpose? Why do some appear to fail and others succeed? What do the answers to these questions tell us about the nature of science-society engagement, and what implications do they have for social-ecological systems research and sustainability science? This thesis addresses these questions from an interpretive perspective, focusing on the meanings that shape human actions. In particular, the thesis examines how meaning, interpretation and experience shape the enactment of four action-oriented sustainability concepts: adaptive management, biosphere reserves, biodiversity corridors and planetary boundaries/reconnecting to the biosphere. In so doing, the thesis provides in-depth empirical applications of three interpretive traditions – hermeneutic, discursive and dialogical – that together articulate a broadly interpretive approach to studying social-ecological complexity. In the hermeneutic tradition, Paper I presents a ‘rich narrative’ case study of a single practitioner tasked with enacting adaptive management in an Australian land management agency, and Paper II provides a qualitative multi-case study of learning among 177 participants in 11 UNESCO biosphere reserves. In the discursive tradition, Paper III uses Q-method to explore interpretations of ‘successful’ biodiversity corridors among 20 practitioners, scientists and community representatives in the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa. In the dialogical tradition, Paper IV reworks conventional understandings of knowledge-action relationships by using three concepts from contemporary practice theory – ‘actionable understanding,’ ‘ongoing business’ and the ‘eternally unfolding present’ – to explore the enactment of adaptive management in an Australian national park. Paper V explores ideas of human-environment connection in the concepts planetary boundaries and reconnecting to the biosphere, and develops an ‘embodied connection’ where human-environment relations emerge through interactivity between mind, body and environment over time. Overall, the thesis extends the frontiers of social-ecological systems research by highlighting the meanings that shape social-ecological complexity; by contributing theories and methods that treat social-ecological change as a relational and holistic process; and by providing entry points to address knowledge, politics and power. The thesis contributes to sustainability science more broadly by introducing novel understandings of knowledge-action relationships; by providing advice on how to make sustainability interventions more useful and effective; by introducing tools that can improve co-production and outcome assessment in the global research platform Future Earth; and by helping to generate robust forms of justification for transdisciplinary knowledge production. The interventionist, actionable nature of social-ecological systems research means that interpretive approaches are an essential complement to existing structural, institutional and behavioural perspectives. Interpretive research can help build a scientifically robust, normatively committed and critically reflexive sustainability science.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, 2016. 84 p.
Keyword
Meaning, interpretive, social-ecological system, complexity, science-policy interface, transformation, sustainability science methodology
National Category
Environmental Sciences Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-135463 (URN)978-91-7649-573-5 (ISBN)978-91-7649-574-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-12-16, Vivi Täckholmsalen (Q-salen), NPQ-huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Swedish Research CouncilMistra - The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Manuscript. Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2016-11-23 Created: 2016-11-08 Last updated: 2016-11-23Bibliographically approved

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