Mar 192013
 

Five-minute animated video produced for a Climate Change and Social Learning (CCSL) initiative of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). CCAFS scientists and partners are meeting this week to share their best ideas on how to work better together, and with many others, for a climate-safe future.

Patti Kristjanson, an agricultural economist working out of Nairobi, Kenya (World Agroforestry Centre), for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), opened the latter’s annual science meeting in California yesterday (18 Mar) with a little animated video on ways to combat the world’s ‘wicked problems’. The 70-odd researchers at this meeting are looking for ways to make bigger and faster impacts on increasing global food security while reducing global warming.

The short (5-minute) animated video is worth a look. It sets out the need for speed in scaling up our agricultural successes and encourages us to make more conscious use of something called ‘social learning’.

What’s that? Well, it’s what most of us do most of the time—learn from each other in social gatherings of one kind or another. What Kristjanson and her climate change researchers are advocating, however, is applying social learning methods intentionally and systematically, that is to say, doing research that pays as much attention to the social processes of science and its communication as to the scientific methods it employs and the evidence it generates.

That may not be rocket science for most of us, but it’s still a tall order for most scientists. Kristjanson’s short engaging video, narrated by Zimbabwean food policy expert (and ILRI board chair) Lindiwe Sibanda and produced by two South Africans, artist/illustrator James Durno and videographer Dale Ballantine, chips away at such academic fustiness and scientific exceptionalism, arguing for greater scientist engagement with a greater diversity of people for greater impacts.

The video encourages its viewers to create ‘safe spaces’ for social learning (picture tree nurseries protecting seedlings — seedlings that will grow into trees of knowledge!). In such protected places, scientists and their many new partners can together tackle the wickedly complex problems of today, such as finding ways to grow enough food to feed the world’s increasing population in the face of an increasingly unpredictable climate.

Cultivate the future’, the video exhorts us. ‘Focus on the future, not the past — on our solutions, not our problems.’

The Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt, 1909 (via Wikipaintings)

‘The Tree of Life’ by Gustav Klimt, about 1909, Austrian Museum of Applied Arts (via WikiPaintings). 

More information
Read more on the ILRI News Blog about the CCAFS annual science meeting here and here.

For more information on the CCSL initiative, go to CCAFS 2013 Science Meeting programme. Updates from the event are being shared on the CCAFS website and on Twitter (follow #2013CCSL).

For more on the use of ‘social learning’ and related methods by the CCAFS, see the CCSL wiki and these posts on ILRI’s maarifa blog. See also this document by Blane Harvey (Institute for Development Studies [IDS], at the University of Sussex), Jonathan Ensor (University of York), Liz Carlile (International Institute for Environment and Development [IIED]), Ben Garside (IIED), Zachary Patterson (IDS), Lars Otto Naess (IDS): Climate change communication and social learning — Review and strategy development for CCAFS, Oct 2012.

For a recent scientific review of social learning, see this paper: Towards systemic and adaptive governance: Exploring the revealing and concealing aspects of contemporary social-learning metaphors, by Ray Ison, Chris Blackmore and Benjamin Iaquinto, Ecological Economics 87 (2013) 34–42, http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2012.12.016

Here is an excerpt from the paper:
‘Concerns about the effective governance of situations such as river catchments, watersheds, climate change adaptation, biodiversity conservation and ecosystem service provision are widespread. A paucity of effective governance approaches in such situations seemingly exists despite the efforts made in the 40 years since Rittel and Webber (1973) coined the term ‘wicked problems’ to refer to situations that are contested, difficult to bound, involving many stakeholders with socio-technical features (APSC, 2007; Ison, 2008). There is clearly a need for governance innovation (Hajer and Wagenaar, 2003); fortunately recent research, as evidenced by Ostrom’s body of work (see Ostrom, 2007, 2010) demonstrates that commons-type situations are no longer irrevocably committed to tragedy as posited by Hardin (1968). Social learning research is also an innovative response to commons-like, or ‘wicked’, situations (Wals, 2007) but the potential of ‘social learning’ to contribute to the governance of socio-ecological systems is not widely appreciated.’

 

 

 

 

  One Response to “The world’s ‘wicked problems’ need wickedly good solutions: Social learning could speed their spread”

  1. Nice, powerful message and well sold. However, it gives the impression as if we knew already how to solve the problems, we just had to spread the message. But I would disagree with such point of view. There is a lot of missing, sometimes crucial information and a lot of opinions and theories being spread that could make things worse rather than better. I think we have to be very careful not to run, as so many times before, into this trap of “we only tried to improve things” resulting in desasters. Learning together is good and important, but what we need is a process that helps decding who to learn from and what to learn. Otherwise it will just be a waste of time.

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