The Adaptive Systemic Approach:Catalysing more just and sustainable outcomes from sustainability and natural resources development research

Palmer, Carolyn and Tanner, Jane and Akanmu, James and Alamirew, Tena and Bamutaze, Yazidhi and Banadda, Noble and Cleaver, Frances and Faye, Serigne and Kabenge, Isa and Kane, Alioune and Longe, Ezechiel and Nobert, Joel and Nsengimana, Venuste and Speight, Vanessa and Weston, Sally and Winter, Kevin and Woldu, Zerihun (2023) The Adaptive Systemic Approach:Catalysing more just and sustainable outcomes from sustainability and natural resources development research. River Research and Applications. ISSN 1535-1459

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AbstractIt has become increasingly common to include participatory processes, several academic disciplines, and additional wide‐ranging ways of knowing, in using research to tackle the escalating environmental problems of the 21st Century. There are barriers to the success of these efforts. In this paper we present the Adaptive Systemic Approach (ASA). The ASA is designed to provide a clear pathway for research related to sustainability issues, river basin problems and natural resource development, and to deliver change towards improved ecological health and social justice outcomes. The design of the ASA rests on three key concepts: complex social‐ecological systems, transdisciplinarity, and transformative social learning, together with Strategic Adaptive Management as the theoretically consistent operational process. We identify logical connections between the concepts and Strategic Adaptive Management so that the ASA emerges as a coherent and practical research and praxis pathway. The ASA process is then outlined to support uptake and wider application. We present findings from ASA praxis in a collaborative African research program considering river basin problems in seven countries, where key contextual learnings led to the recognition of five barriers to effective research impact outcomes: (1) Lack of an integrative conceptual grounding. (2) Participatory stakeholder engagement flawed by epistemic injustice. (3) Inadequate transdisciplinary team building. (4) Insufficient inclusion of learning, reflection, and systemic adaptation. (5) Inflated claims of probable impact in terms of creating change towards improved ecological health and social justice. We reflect on the ways the ASA contributes to breaching these barriers. Early key learnings from ASA praxis leads us to suggest that the ASA has practical value for policy makers, practitioners and researchers seeking pathways for fair and sustainable river management, and more broadly in natural resource development.

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Journal Article
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River Research and Applications
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Deposited On:
07 Aug 2023 10:30
Last Modified:
22 Sep 2023 00:54