Social learning for facilitating dialogue and understanding of the ecosystem services approach: lessons from a cross-border experience in the Alboran Marine Basin

Año Publicación:  2019
Responsable: M. D. López-Rodríguez et al.
Journal, Volumen y páginas:
Sustainability 11: 5239.


M. D. López-Rodríguez, J. Cabello, H. Castro & J. Rodríguez


Social learning (SL) appears to have considerable potential to enhance the impact of the ecosystem services approach (ESA) discourse on policy and society. However, empirical research to better understand the processes that support SL, the effects it generates, and the conditions that enable such learning is limited. This study assesses the ability of SL to enhance dialogue and understanding of the ESA to support transformative social change in governance practice in the Alboran Marine Basin. To do so, we conducted a specifically designed SL process oriented towards the ESA as a governance approach in this marine region. The SL process was developed through three interlinked workshops involving scientists, decision-makers and local users from Spain and Morocco, the two countries that share the governance of this social-ecological system. The results revealed that the SL process progressively facilitated (i) a more inclusive and constructive ecosystem services dialogue, (ii) a better understanding of the social-ecological system in which the actors were embedded, (iii) an enhanced recognition of science-policy-society complementarities to address sustainability issues, and (iv) a gradual social transformation towards more sustainable and equitable governance. Via the SL process, a variety of factors were identified as contributing to the creation of four relevant conditions that facilitated its successful operationalisation. These conditions included (i) the generation of trust and shared understanding, (ii) the facilitation of knowledge exchanges between actor groups across frontiers, (iii) the promotion of more democratic participation, and (iv) the co-production of practical outcomes. These contextual insights provided empirical evidence of the prominent role SL can play to enhance dialogue and understanding of the ESA for supporting its adoption as governance practice. On this basis, it is argued that operationalising SL in those processes focused on making the ESA relevant to policy and society is pivotal to its implementation in governance practice. 

Keywords: social learning, communication, ecosystem services dialogue, knowledge co-production, social transformation, sustainable governance

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