What does social learning look like

Two examples that could be interpreted both as social learning and taking environmental responsibility are as follows:

1 Jiggins et al. (2007) described how a search for a new approach to water management was triggered by a ban on sprinkler irrigation, imposed in the Netherlands in the Benelux middle area, when groundwater levels fell during a period of dry weather. Among the many stakeholders in this situation were water boards, farmers, horticulturalists, conservationists and individual members of the public. While the sprinkler ban provided one solution, these stakeholders all articulated 'the problem' in different ways. The challenge was for stakeholders to act together in a way that conserved groundwater without cutting off essential supplies for farming and horticulture. With the help of a farmers' and horticulturalists' union a proactive multi-stakeholder collaboration was formed, based on shared learning and voluntary participation. They worked in awareness that the authorities could intervene if voluntary effort proved insufficient. Together those concerned learnt how to use water more efficiently, using feedback processes enabled by fixing measuring devices to sprinklers and, in two later projects, installing small weirs across field ditches so water could both be held longer and levels observed more easily. In these ways farmers could see how much water they were using and understand better how to keep a balance.

2 Willemsen et al. (2007) described multilevel social learning around local seed in a project in three Andean provinces in Ecuador. Community, facilitation team, NGO and individual learning took place through field visits, meetings, school activities, workshops, evaluation and documentation processes. Exchanges of experiences between the different levels took place with 'social interaction in which framing and reframing of concepts related to seeds and agriculture on the different levels played a key role. Social learning - learning that occurred with different stakeholders, in a setting in which people searched for solutions to the actual problem of seed erosion they experienced -helped to create a collective basis to start a project on Informal Seed Systems' (ibid.: 479). The seed erosion they refer to here is genetic erosion and the process of losing biodiversity, where traditional crops have largely been replaced by modern varieties of maize and potato threatening the sustainability of communities. The aim of the project was to find a way forward that would address seed erosion and be meaningful to farmers.

These examples could also be interpreted in other ways, for instance as managing water resources sustainably or sustainable agriculture. Social learning and environmental responsibility can be related to many different kinds of activity. In both of the above cases, dynamic processes of multi-stakeholder, multilevel and collective learning were facilitated in ways that valued different kinds of knowledge and understanding. This kind of social learning approach is different from other regulatory, educational or market instruments of policy or governance that can be


t5 c used to encourage environmental responsibility, which tend to work with more fixed forms of knowledge and understandings of 'the problem' (Ison et al. 2007). Many of those mentioned at the start of this chapter are interested in how social learning can be used in ways that complement other instruments of policy and governance.

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