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AbstractScientists and ‘ordinary’ citizens alike have different thresholds with respect to the amount of un-clarity, conflict and confusion that they can handle. Some see merit in all three factors and embrace them as drivers of deeper thinking and reflection, while others need clarity, confirmation and assurance. In the world of academia but also in the everyday world of politics, terms, concepts and phrases emerge, be it in journals and newspapers, on Facebook or via twitter, that quickly become popular or, to use a more modern word, ‘viral’. Words like ‘hybrid’, ‘sustainability’, ‘green economy’, ‘community of practice’ and ‘carbon neutral’ are just a few that I have been noticing a lot lately, but there are many others. Depending on one’s comfort level with regard to un-clarity, conflict and confusion, such inevitably ill-defined and (therefore?) popular concepts have either an appealing or appalling vagueness. In this report, Romina Rodela is trying to determine the meaning of an emerging form of learning in the context of natural resource management: social learning (a phrase with 9.6 million Google hits as I type this on April 27, 2012). Her work as a Marie Curie Post Doctoral Fellow as a part of the UNESCO Chair in Social Learning and Sustainable Development within the Education & Competence Studies Group of Wageningen University sheds light on the meanings and usages of social learning at various levels (micro, meso and macro) and from different disciplinary and interdisciplinary vantage points. This report represents a much-needed meta-analysis in this emerging field and pulls together key research articles on social learning in natural resource management and related fields, such as environmental management. Readers looking for the definitive definition of social learning will be disappointed as the word ‘definitive’ does not seem to exists in multi-stakeholder communities of reflexive learners; rather, these communities seem to be engaged in processes that are ‘iterative’ and ‘emergent’. The contexts in which social learning and natural resource management are used tend to be ‘in-flux’ or ‘dynamic’, and the learning taking place is rather blended, taking on many forms from experiential to transmissive, from personal to collaborative, from formal to informal, and so on. Still, there are some common threads that seem to characterise what we might call social learning. The importance of creating social cohesion among the various actors as a prerequisite for using the differences that exist among them is one common point, but there are others that the reader will find within the text. I compliment Dr. Rodela for creating some clarity and shedding some much-needed light on the rising phenomenon of social learning and doing so without trying to freeze or fix the concept in ways that would hamper its potential to contribute to more sustainable natural resource management and, ultimately, to the well-being of the planet as a whole.
TypePart of book or chapter of book