Learning in Support of Governance: Theories, Methods, and a Framework to Assess how Bridging Organizations Contribute to Adaptive Resource Governance
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Abstract"Humanity faces increasingly intractable environmental problems characterized by high uncertainty, complexity, and swift change. Natural resource governance must therefore involve continuous production and use of new knowledge to adapt to highly complex, rapidly changing social-ecological systems to ensure long-term sustainable development. Bridging and boundary organizations have been proposed as potentially powerful means of achieving these aims by promoting cooperation among actors from the science, policy, and management sectors. However, despite substantial investments of time, capital, and human resources, little agreement exists about definitions and measures of knowledge production and how this is achieved in bridging organizations and there is only meager understanding of how knowledge production and its use are shaped by social interactions, socio-political environments, and power relations. New concepts, methods, and metrics for conceptualizing and measuring learning in support of natural resource governance and testing the conditions under which it can be achieved are therefore badly needed. This paper presents an attempt at a holistic framework to address this, drawing on theory, methods, and metrics from three research areas: knowledge utilization, boundary organizations, and stakeholder theory. Taken together, these provide a solid conceptual and methodological toolkit for conducting cross-case comparisons aimed at understanding the social environmental conditions under which learning in such organizations does and does not occur. We use empirical data to show how the framework can be applied and discuss some of the practical considerations and important challenges that emerge. We close with a general discussion and an agenda for future research to promote discussion around the topic of how to erect systematic comparisons of learning in support of adaptive natural resource governance as it occurs in bridging organizations."
Ecology and Society