About this site
This site aims to provide a practical resource for those who work with communities (in the wider sense of the term) to help them identify and adopt more sustainable practices. It provides a guide to resources relevant for those working to support collaboration, social learning and constructive action in multi-stakeholder settings. It brings links to a wide range of on-line resources together in one easy to access place. Site content is largely sourced from the sustainable development, natural resource management, urban development, public health and agricultural sectors. Typical site users include policymakers, agency staff, community and business leaders, and practitioners working in collaborative settings. To give some indication of the value of this this, current statistics (using AW stats) show the site averages over recent years is in excess of 750 visits each day. The highest number of recorded visits in any one day is 1560.
This site provides an annotated guide to a range of on-line resources providing papers, handbooks, tips, theory and techniques in a number of related, skill fields – effort is taken to make sure that the site only links to open-access, freely available material. Most of these resources focus on specific areas of work. This site provides an integrated structure that helps practitioners appreciate and bring together these different topics. It also shows how the application of these different skills and work areas need to be interlinked in practice to contribute towards social learning and constructive practice change. More information about my own work can be accessed via my Will Allen & Associates page.
The structure of this site has developed over time. The overall framework has developed through the course of my work – which looks to support policy and management initiatives that are outcome focused – and build on participation, collaboration, social learning and adaptive co-management. I specialize in working in and supporting multi-stakeholder and integrated approaches in complex settings, often around issues related to sustainability, sustainable development and natural resource management. The fact that I can then share my hyper-linked Internet “bookmarks” with my colleagues is something I count as an added (and extremely valuable) benefit.
The following thoughts set the context for the development of this site, provide a brief history of the site’s years on the Internet, and outline how the site should be used – along with an appropriate disclaimer for information use. Your ideas and comments are welcomed in order to improve this on-line resource.
Everything has been said about development, but almost everything remains to be said and therefore to be explored or rediscovered, because incontestably, almost everything remains to be done. (Cosmao. 1984 p. 81*)
This site aims to provide a practical resource for proponents of multi-stakeholder learning processes. In doing so I recognise that social learning is an ongoing process, rather than an outcome to be achieved. Moreover, the process occurs as a result of many well-managed relationships and the provision of a range of interactive opportunities between different stakeholder groups. Social learning and empowerment are based on each other. In this sense empowerment is the process of enhancing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes.
It is easy to say that successful development can only be achieved by a truly collaborative effort between local community groups, agencies, scientists and policy makers. However, despite ongoing improvements in this area over recent years, we also know that we still have a long way to go in achieving such collaboration – and effectively sharing the required perspectives, information and ideas. While social scientists and change management practitioners have long sought to inform and improve the practices of those seeking to bring about such constructive societal change, too little of that research seems to have found its way into practice. Yet the volume of participatory-oriented research continues to expand. The resulting information overload causes researchers and practitioners alike to simply miss much useful material which they have neither the means to identify nor the time to read. Often too, while initiatives in this area have been improved by the efforts of individuals (be they local environmental managers, community leaders, NGOs, agency staff or other end-users) as part of their efforts to address a particular problem, the lessons learnt have not always been documented for others to use.
Another major problem facing the would-be “change agent” is the breadth of disciplines and areas of expertise that are needed. The practice of involving people and building constructive collaborations and partnerships requires not only a specialist knowledge of the particular area (agriculture, biodiversity, etc.), but also skills in a diverse range of areas from information management through to conflict resolution. Although the emphasis of the original NRM-changelinks site was on improving community participation and engagement within natural resource management (biodiversity enhancement, conservation, riparian management, agriculture, etc), this emphasis is broadening in the new Learning for Sustainability version. The approaches outlined here are useful for those working in a diverse range of development areas such as rural development, health, housing, etc.
I’d like to acknowledge the support I have received from a number of sources at different periods, particularly during the initial ten years of the site – these include Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research NZ, the Institute of Development Studies and Natural Resource Management Programme at Massey University, my family, and colleagues. Thanks to Karen Scott for the original site design and CSS development. And thanks also to all of you who have contributed to the site content by pointing to papers and other material for inclusion and sharing among the wider global community of practice in this area.
The material here is all freely available for use, please acknowledge the source where appropriate. The views expressed in this site are my own, and are not necessarily those of any supporting organisations, groups, or individuals. For more about the background to this site you may also wish to visit my home page.
Looking back – links to previous site versions
This site was initiated in 1998 as part of my PhD studies (see my thesis Ch 10), and was managed as the NRM-changelinks site. Over the 2005/2006 period the NRM-changelinks name (and URL) was discontinued, and was superceded by the Learning for Sustainability name (and URL). The Learning for Sustainability (LfS) site was 10 years old last year, and received a major revision and upgrade (to this current wordpress site)!
Here you can visit one of the earliest versions (January 1999) of the nrm-changelinks site … hosted on the Massey University server.
Several years ago this site was rated five stars by Argus Clearinghouse in the sustainable development category. A nice bit of history … and archived here by The Wayback Machine – the Internet archive.
Argus Clearinghouse archive link
… and here is one of the last versions (April 2006) of the nrm-changelinks site …. hosted on its own server http://nrm-changelinks.net
…. and a glimpse of the early (April 2008) Learning for Sustainability site – indicating the CSS layout and colours
* Vincent Cosmao (1984) Un Monde en développement, guide de réflexion, Paris, Editions de l’Atelier.