chapter  1
19 Pages

Adaptive collaborative approaches in natural resource governance: an introduction


This book is not about making one more call for participation, learning or collaboration – much cherished ideals over the past few decades in the field of development and natural resource management. It is instead about exploring how we can foster more effective learning and cooperative actions – two important elements of adaptive collaborative approaches (ACA). Our point of departure is that despite massive expansion of participatory, decentralized approaches to natural resource governance and management over the past three decades, success has remained limited. These approaches tend to shift the role or burden from one part of the system to another, or fail to forge genuine learning and cooperative actions among the actors residing at different parts of the socio-environmental system. It is now time to examine how we can link back the local with the national (and beyond) through learning and collaborative approaches. It is also time to go beyond circulating ideals from expert, donor or policy ‘houses’ and start exploring underlying limits and pitfalls of these popular strategies, so that we can advance our learning about learning and innovation in natural resource systems. In this book, we therefore refer to the world of practice to understand the possibilities of change. We drew inspiration from a Chinese proverb that we can learn important insights by listening to the people who have chosen the difficult way – at least to experiment or understand the world. This book is thus a compilation of stories told by practitioners or at least collected by

the action-oriented researchers, from pre-existing practices and research, and not just research done by us, the editors. Although stories captured in the book are complex, the core message is simple: challenges to adaptive learning and collaborative governance are numerous and fundamental, and yet there is hardly an alternative route to effective natural resource governance other than to explore ways through which actors can engage with each other and take an adaptive approach to learning. This does not mean, however, that such approaches emerge automatically in practice, and but actors taking the lead have to face a number of constraints. This book advances the understanding of confronting diverse challenges to adaptive learning and innovation in the context of natural resource governance.