Trusting emergence: some experiences of learning about integrated catchment science with the Environment Agency of England and Wales

Collins, Kevin B. and Ison, Ray L. (2010). Trusting emergence: some experiences of learning about integrated catchment science with the Environment Agency of England and Wales. Water Resources Management, 24(4) pp. 669–688.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11269-009-9464-8

Abstract

The changing context of managing water in the European Union poses a fundamental and largely unaddressed question: are current scientific practices and scientific explanations able to meet the demands of doing effective integrated catchment management? This paper presents findings from 2 years of co-researching with scientists responsible for developing the Integrated Catchment Science Strategy within the Environment Agency, the main environmental regulatory body for England and Wales. The use of a co-researching approach using systems thinking and practice to enable social learning created, where none existed, a common conceptual framing of purpose and an incipient community of practice (CoP). Three key insights emerge: (1) integration of catchment sciences is possible at the level of policy objectives; (2) a shift in language and practice is required towards Integrated Catchment Managing to describe and enact the sets of purposeful activities and interactions among multiple stakeholders; (3) institutional and organizational constraints exist which limit the potential of CoPs to act in more innovative ways and develop more integrated and adaptive science-policy. Our findings confirm the need to develop learning processes which pay attention to the context, stakeholders, the key changes that are required in particular catchments and, most important of all, the epistemological perspective(s) of those involved in managing catchments.

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