Exploring dimensions, scales, and cross-scale dynamics from the perspectives of change agents in social-ecological systems

J.M. Vervoort, L. Rutting, K. Kok, F.L.P. Hermans, A. Veldkamp, A.K. Bregt, R.J.A. van Lammeren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Issues of scale play a crucial role in the governance of social–ecological systems. Yet, attempts to bridge interdisciplinary perspectives on the role of scale have thus far largely been limited to the science arena. This study has extended the scale vocabulary to allow for the inclusion of practice-based perspectives on scale. We introduced “dimensions,” used to describe the bare aspects of phenomena, such as time, space, and power, structured by scales and levels. We argued that this extension allows for a clearer understanding of the diversity of dimensions and scales that can be used to explore social–ecological systems. We used this scale vocabulary in a practical case study to elicit perspectives on dimensions, scales, and cross-dimensional dynamics from change agents in Dutch social–ecological systems. Through a visual interview method based in the extended scale vocabulary, our participants identified a large diversity of dimensions they saw as instrumental to understanding insights and lessons about effecting systems change. These dimensions were framed by a large number of scales to describe cross-dimensional interactions. The results illustrate the value of practice-based perspectives for the development of scale theory. We also argue that the introduction of dimensions in the scale vocabulary is useful for clarifying scale theory aimed at linking different disciplines and sectors, and that the framework and methods based on it can also provide clarity for practical scale challenges.
Original languageEnglish
Article number24
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • governance
  • innovation
  • management
  • multilevel
  • technologies
  • environment
  • resilience
  • mismatches
  • leadership
  • knowledge


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