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Learning about social-ecological trade-offs

Diego Galafassi, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University
Tim M. Daw, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University
Lydiah Munyi, Independent Natural Resource Governance Consultant, Basingstoke
Katrina Brown, Geography, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter
Cecile Barnaud, INRA (French National Institute for Agricultural Research)
Ioan Fazey, Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience, University of Dundee


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Trade-offs are manifestations of the complex dynamics in interdependent social-ecological systems. Addressing trade-offs involves challenges of perception due to the dynamics of interdependence. We outline the challenges associated with addressing trade-offs and analyze knowledge coproduction as a practice that may contribute to tackling trade-offs in social-ecological systems. We discuss this through a case study in coastal Kenya in which an iterative knowledge coproduction process was facilitated to reveal social-ecological trade-offs in the face of ecological and socioeconomic change. Representatives of communities, government, and NGOs attended two integrative workshops in which methods derived from systems thinking, dialogue, participatory modeling, and scenarios were applied to encourage participants to engage and evaluate trade-offs. Based on process observation and interviews with participants and scientists, our analysis suggests that this process lead to increased appreciation of interdependences and the way in which trade-offs emerge from complex dynamics of interdependent factors. The process seemed to provoke a reflection of knowledge assumptions and narratives, and management goals for the social-ecological system. We also discuss how stakeholders link these insights to their practices.

Key words

complexity thinking; coproduction; knowledge; participatory modeling; scenarios; well-being

Copyright © 2017 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