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Social Learning Through Evaluation: from Evidence Based Management to Collective Action for Complex Problems


  • Thomas G Measham

    () (CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Australia)


The role of evaluation in environmental management in Australia tends to be limited to restricted measures of program effectiveness rather than contributing towards supporting environmental managers in addressing complex environmental problems. This paper shows how a social learning approach can be incorporated into evaluating public investment in environmental management dealing with the complex environmental challenges which are inherently difficult to understand, predict and manage. The paper draws on a case study of salinity management amongst a Landcare group in the wheatbelt region of Western Australia. In this region, there are major knowledge barriers impeding salinity management which are being addressed through a program of participatory trials driven by local landholders linked to research partners and government funding. The research presented in this paper focused on evaluating this innovative initiative and tracking its impact through its design, implementation and monitoring phases. The paper shows that, by incorporating social learning principles and some additional practical elements, program evaluation can promote collective action and critical reflection which can assist individuals and communities to respond to complex problems.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas G Measham, 2008. "Social Learning Through Evaluation: from Evidence Based Management to Collective Action for Complex Problems," Socio-Economics and the Environment in Discussion (SEED) Working Paper Series 2008-06, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems.
  • Handle: RePEc:cse:wpaper:2008-06

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    More about this item


    Salinity; participation; capacity building; uncertainty; monitoring;

    JEL classification:

    • H43 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Project Evaluation; Social Discount Rate

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