Multi-loop social learning for sustainable land and water governance: Towards a research agenda on the potential of virtual learning platforms

W.J. Medema, A.E.J. Wals, J. Adamowski

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39 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Managing social-ecological systems and human well being in a sustainable way requires knowledge of these systems in their full complexity. Multi-loop social learning is recognized as a crucial element to sustainable decision-making for land and water resources management involving a process of managing change where the central methodological concern is with effectively engaging the necessary participation of system members in contributing to the collective knowledge of the system. Ensuring the inclusion of the community of concern may help to ensure robust knowledge, the necessary plurality of views, responsibility sharing and trust enhancement. This will also provide more dynamic lines of input to problem solving: local and changing forms of knowledge, emerging concerns and constraints all feed into an ongoing decision-making process. This conceptual paper is focused specifically on identifying the key drivers and conditions that facilitate multi-loop social learning and the untapped potential of virtual learning platforms in this context. The hyper-connectivity that characterizes digitally mediated networks opens up significant possibilities for information exchange, knowledge creation, feedback, debate, learning and innovation, social networking, and so on. This paper provides a thorough literature review of the conditions and affordances that are conducive to multi-loop social learning in the context of sustainable land and water governance. The insights from this review confirm the potential of a ‘learning ecology’ or virtual learning platform for knowledge co-production, trust building, sense making, critical self-reflection, vertical and horizontal collaboration, and conflict resolution, while serving as a facilitating platform between different levels of governance, and across resource and knowledge systems. To conclude this paper, a developmental research agenda is proposed to refine and improve understanding of multi-loop social learning processes and their effective facilitation through virtual learning platforms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-38
JournalNJAS Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences
Volume69
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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Keywords

  • natural-resource management
  • organizational-change
  • adaptive management
  • environmental governance
  • ecological systems
  • distance education
  • climate-change
  • active-worlds
  • comanagement
  • framework

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