Solving ‘wicked’ problems: Can social learning catalyse adaptive responses to climate change?
Social learning approaches can catalyse knowledge co-creation and action, so have the potential to help solve complex ‘wicked’ problems such as climate change and food insecurity. This working paper (PDF) by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) synthesises evidence from five diverse initiatives employing social learning approaches in response to such problems using the Climate Change and Social Learning initiative’s monitoring and evaluation framework. This tool is structured to track the processes that are more likely to foster social learning across four key dimensions: engagement, iterative learning, capacity development and challenging institutions. Complex or ‘wicked’ problems often cannot be adequately addressed using traditional ‘top-down’ approaches. Social learning oriented approaches offer a potential solution by calling on the knowledge of multiple stakeholder groups, and encouraging knowledge sharing and integration and the co-creation of new knowledge. Social learning is more than just group learning; it has an agenda for wider change. It encourages stakeholders to work together to implement and test solutions through iterative cycles of learning, action and reflection. Spreading the learning from this iterative process to wider stakeholder groups and networks allows for change on a larger scale. Institutional openness and support for such approaches is crucial for realising the potential for change, according to the authors. This working paper highlights initial evidence that key factors in social learning approaches can lead to clear learning outcomes with resulting positive changes in values and practice. Links to longer-term development outcomes are also evident in several completed initiatives. The analysis indicates that programmes and projects employing approaches that incorporate key factors from each social learning dimension are most likely to see positive changes among stakeholders in relevant understanding, relationships and norms. Programmes and projects that emphasise all four dimensions are most likely to see the crucial changes in values and practice across stakeholders and wider groups that can lead to improved development outcomes.