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Institutionalising social learning: towards systemic and adaptive governance

Ison, Raymond L.; Collins, Kevin B. and Wallis, Philip J (2015). Institutionalising social learning: towards systemic and adaptive governance. Environmental Science & Policy, 53(Part B) pp. 105–117.

DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2014.11.002
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Abstract

This paper critically examines how public policy makers limit policy and other institutional design choices by a failure to appreciate (i) how situations may be characterised or framed; (ii) how practices that generate neologisms (invented terms or concepts) or reify (make into a thing) abstract concepts can displace understandings, and (iii) the epistemological bases of governance mechanism choices. An inquiry into the coining of the neologisms ‘wicked’ and ‘tame’ problems is reported and the implications for research and policy practice explored. As practices, neologising, reifying, categorising and typologising have unintended consequences – they remove us from the primary experiences and underlying emotions that provided the motivation for formulating these concepts in the first place. The failure to institutionalise the understandings and experiences that sit behind the invention of the terms ‘wicked’ and ‘tame’ problems (or similar framing choices such as ‘problematique’, ‘messes’, ‘lowland real-life swamps’, ‘resource dilemmas’ or ‘complex adaptive systems’) present systemic constraints to institutionalising social learning as an alternative yet complementary governance mechanism within an overall systemic and adaptive governance framework. Ultimately situations usefully framed as ‘wicked’,’ such as water managing and climate change are problems of relationship – of human beings with the biosphere. Re-framings, such as institutions as social technologies and other research and praxis traditions concerned with the breakdown of relationships may offer ways forward in the purposeful designing and crafting of more effective institutions.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2014 Elsevier Ltd.
ISSN: 1873-6416
Keywords: wicked problems; messes; systemic inquiry; climate change adaptation; social learning; systems approaches
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Engineering and Innovation
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
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Item ID: 41307
Depositing User: Raymond Ison
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2014 11:28
Last Modified: 30 Oct 2017 11:27
URI: http://oro.open.ac.uk/id/eprint/41307
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