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How social learning influences further collaboration: experiences from an international collaborative water project

Joanne Vinke-de Kruijf, Institute of Environmental Systems Research, University of Osnabrück
Hans Bressers, Twente Centre for Studies in Technology and Sustainable Development (CSTM), University of Twente
Denie C. M. Augustijn, Department of Water Engineering and Management, University of Twente


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Social learning in collaborative settings can play an important role in reducing water management problems. In this paper we analyze the nature and effects of these learning processes in an international collaborative setting. We assert that social interactions contribute to substantive and relational learning, which involves changes in the motivations, cognitions and resources of individual actors. In addition, interactions may contribute to social learning, which is the case when actors develop collective outcomes on which further collaboration can be based. We use these theoretical insights to examine a water project in which Dutch and Romanian actors collaborate. Their interactions changed their individual motivations, cognitions, and resources and led to collective outcomes. Some of the learning processes were constructive, others were not. Because the unconstructive learning by external actors was decisive, the collaboration did not establish a basis for further collaboration. The case study demonstrates that a single project can include multiple and diverse social learning processes, which may have a positive or negative effect on further collaboration. Whose learning has most impact closely relates to how resources are distributed across actors, and hence the context of a learning process. Thus, whether learning forms a basis for further collaboration depends not only on ‘how much’ actors learn but in particular on ‘who learns what.’

Key words

international collaboration; Romania; social learning; water resource management

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087