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Building Capacity for Social Learning in Environmental Management

Margaret Kilvington [ margaret.kilvington@gmail.com ]

A dissertation presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Lincoln University, New Zealand

[Reference as: Kilvington, M.J. (2010) Building Capacity for Social Learning in Environmental Management. PhD, Lincoln University. Available on-line at http://learningforsustainability.net/pubs/kilvington/]

The concept of social learning has been increasingly promulgated, if not as a solution, then at least as an important supporting framework for problem solving in the kinds of complex contested, multistakeholder situations that typify current resource allocation and environmental management challenges. In this thesis I examine the origins and uses of the social learning construct, and look at what it has come to mean in the environmental management literature. I conclude with a four part framework for understanding and assessing the social learning challenges of complex problem solving situations (Chapter 2). What this review of the social learning literature reveals is that while the concept has evolved considerably in the last decade, less has been observed and written about the practice of applying ideas about social learning to ongoing problem solving situations. In this thesis I propose that through its capacity to support learning about both content and process, participatory, developmental (P & D) forms of evaluation can provide a useful vehicle for improving the social learning capacity of environmental management initiatives. I examine the relationship between social learning and P & D evaluation in Chapter 3. In subsequent chapters (4-8) I look into the potential and pitfalls of applying P & D evaluation to support social learning using the experience of ongoing and past work of the Collaborative Learning for Environmental Management group based at Landcare Research (an environmental crown research institute of New Zealand). In the concluding chapter (Chapter 9) I offer some observations on the opportunities and constraints affecting the development of capacity for social learning in environmental problem solving situations in New Zealand. The various chapters are provided below as PDF files, and should each open in a new window.

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