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Social learning, governance and practice change

"Sustainability, is better seen as a measure of the relationship between the community as learners and their environments, rather than an externally designed goal to be achieved" (Sriskandarajah et al, 1991).

The concept of social (or collaborative) learning refers to learning processes among a group of people who seek to improve a common situation and take action collectively. This understanding effectively extends experiential learning into collective learning. This is a form of governance, in the sense that governance relates to how society manages to allocate resources and coordinate or control activity in society or the economy (Wikipedia). It is also adaptive management or 'learning-by-doing'.

There is no one definition of social learning, but the many descriptions of it emphasise the importance of dialogues (negotiation) between groups - to better understand different points of view, and develop processes for collective action and reflection over time. Social learning and empowerment are based on each other. 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. Achieving such outcomes is not a one-off process that can be externally planned and executed like a fielday or workshop, but it is a social process that are woven from activity strands including systems thinking, network building, dialogue, knowledge management, and planning and evaluation. Information on the different strands that support social learning can be accessed through the 'social learning' index on left. Planning and evaluation, because of the role they play in tieing together all other strands and activities is expanded into their own topic area in the navigation index. The social capacity, networks and trust which facilitate this co-operation for mutual benefit are referred to as 'social capital'.

Some papers set out below provide insights into the wider process of social learning and its links with practice change.