Environmental stewardship is a valuable and holistic concept for guiding productive and sustained relationships with the environment. A group of colleagues and I have just published a new open access paper in the journal Environmental Management titled: “Environmental Stewardship: A conceptual review and analytical framework“. In this paper, we define local environmental stewardship as “the actions taken by individuals, groups or networks of actors, with various motivations and levels of capacity, to protect, care for or responsibly use the environment in pursuit of environmental and/or social outcomes in diverse social–ecological contexts.” We review the literature to provide a framework to guide analysis of local environmental stewardship initiatives in diverse contexts and situations.
Abstract: There has been increasing attention to and investment in local environmental stewardship in conservation and environmental management policies and programs globally. Yet environmental stewardship has not received adequate conceptual attention. Establishing a clear definition and comprehensive analytical framework could strengthen our ability to understand the factors that lead to the success or failure of environmental stewardship in different contexts and how to most effectively support and enable local efforts. Here we propose such a definition and framework. First, we define local environmental stewardship as the actions taken by individuals, groups or networks of actors, with various motivations and levels of capacity, to protect, care for or responsibly use the environment in pursuit of environmental and/or social outcomes in diverse social–ecological contexts. Next, drawing from a review of the environmental stewardship, management and governance literatures, we unpack the elements of this definition to develop an analytical framework that can facilitate research on local environmental stewardship. Finally, we discuss potential interventions and leverage points for promoting or supporting local stewardship and future applications of the framework to guide descriptive, evaluative, prescriptive or systematic analysis of environmental stewardship. Further application of this framework in diverse environmental and social contexts is recommended to refine the elements and develop insights that will guide and improve the outcomes of environmental stewardship initiatives and investments. Ultimately, our aim is to raise the profile of environmental stewardship as a valuable and holistic concept for guiding productive and sustained relationships with the environment.
Concerns about the negative consequences of conservation for local people have prompted attention toward how to address the social impacts of different conservation projects, programs, and policies. Inevitably, when actions are taken to protect or manage the environment this will produce a suite of both positive and negative social impacts for local communities and resource users. Thus, a challenge for conservation and environmental decision-makers and managers is maximizing social benefits while minimizing negative burdens across social, economic, cultural, health, and governance spheres of human well-being. The last decade has seen significant advances in both the methods and the metrics for understanding how conservation and environmental management impact human well-being. There has also been increased uptake in socio-economic monitoring programs in conservation organizations and environmental agencies. Yet, little guidance exists on how to integrate the results of social impact monitoring back into conservation management and decision-making. We recommend that conservation organizations and environmental agencies take steps to better understand and address the social impacts of conservation and environmental management. This can be achieved by integrating key components of the adaptive social impact management (ASIM) cycle outlined below, and in a new paper published today in Conservation Biology, into decision-making and management processes**.
Take away messages:
Conservation and environmental management can produce both positive and negative social impacts for local communities and resource users. Thus it is necessary to understand and adaptively manage the social impacts of conservation over time. This will improve social outcomes, engender local support and increase the overall effectiveness of conservation.
Adaptive social impact management
Adaptive social impact management (ASIM) is “the ongoing and cyclical process of monitoring and adaptively managing the social impacts of an initiative through the following four stages: profiling, learning, planning and implementing.”
- Profiling – The cycle begins with defining the scope and social profile for the social impact management program. This involves identifying spatial boundaries, timelines, and available resources, as well as creating a basic profile of the social system under consideration.
- Learning – The second stage focuses on developing an understanding of the actual positive and negative social impacts of the project to date as well as how and why these impacts have occurred. It involves data collection, analysis, evaluation, and communication.
- Planning – During the third stage, managers and practitioners identify alternative courses of action and their respective potential impacts, deliberate and make decisions regarding which actions to take, and revise management policies and plans accordingly.
- Implementing – The final stage is where decisions are put into action to adapt conservation and management. Lessons learned are shared across sites and to managers and policy-makers to inform decisions, policies and programs.
For more information, please refer to:
- POLICY BRIEF: Managing the social impacts of conservation, October 2017
- PUBLICATION: Maery Kaplan-Hallam & Nathan J. Bennett (2017). Adaptive social impact management for conservation and environmental management. Conservation Biology. Link: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12985/full
A group of colleagues and I recently published an Open Access review paper in Biological Conservation titled “Conservation Social Science: Understanding and Integrating Human Dimensions to Improve Conservation“. It can be found here and more information follows below.
- A better understanding of the human dimensions of environmental issues can improve conservation.
- Yet there is a lack of awareness of the scope and uncertainty about the purpose of the conservation social sciences.
- We review 18 fields and identify 10 distinct contributions that the social sciences can make to conservation.
- This review paper provides a succinct reference for those wishing to engage with the conservation social sciences.
- Greater engagement with the social sciences will facilitate more legitimate, salient, robust and effective conservation.
It has long been claimed that a better understanding of human or social dimensions of environmental issues will improve conservation. The social sciences are one important means through which researchers and practitioners can attain that better understanding. Yet, a lack of awareness of the scope and uncertainty about the purpose of the conservation social sciences impedes the conservation community’s effective engagement with the human dimensions. This paper examines the scope and purpose of eighteen subfields of classic, interdisciplinary and applied conservation social sciences and articulates ten distinct contributions that the social sciences can make to understanding and improving conservation. In brief, the conservation social sciences can be valuable to conservation for descriptive, diagnostic, disruptive, reflexive, generative, innovative, or instrumental reasons. This review and supporting materials provides a succinct yet comprehensive reference for conservation scientists and practitioners. We contend that the social sciences can help facilitate conservation policies, actions and outcomes that are more legitimate, salient, robust and effective.
- Nathan J. Bennett, Robin Roth, Sarah C. Klain, Kai Chan, Patrick Christie, Douglas A. Clark, Georgina Cullman, Deborah Curran, Trevor J. Durbin, Graham Epstein, Alison Greenberg, Michael P Nelson, John Sandlos, Richard Stedman, Tara L Teel, Rebecca Thomas, Diogo Veríssimo, Carina Wyborn. Conservation social science: Understanding and integrating human dimensions to improve conservation. Biological Conservation, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.10.006
I just published a co-authored Open Access article in the journal Conservation Biology titled “Mainstreaming the social sciences in conservation“. In this article, we define conservation social science, examine the barriers to uptake of the social sciences in conservation, and suggest practical steps that might be taken to overcome these barriers.
Bennett, N., Roth, R., Klain, S., Chan, K., Clark, D., Cullman, G., Epstein, G., Nelson, P., Stedman, R., Teel, T., Thomas, R., Wyborn, C., Currans, D., Greenberg, A., Sandlos, J & Verissimo, D. (2016). Mainstreaming the social sciences in conservation. Conservation Biology. Online, Open Access. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12788
Despite broad recognition of the value of social sciences and increasingly vocal calls for better engagement with the human element of conservation, the conservation social sciences remain misunderstood and underutilized in practice. The conservation social sciences can provide unique and important contributions to society’s understanding of the relationships between humans and nature and to improving conservation practice and outcomes. There are 4 barriers – ideological, institutional, knowledge, and capacity – to meaningful integration of the social sciences into conservation. We provide practical guidance on overcoming these barriers to mainstream the social sciences in conservation science, practice, and policy. Broadly, we recommend fostering knowledge on the scope and contributions of the social sciences to conservation, including social scientists from the inception of interdisciplinary research projects, incorporating social science research and insights during all stages of conservation planning and implementation, building social science capacity at all scales in conservation organizations and agencies, and promoting engagement with the social sciences in and through global conservation policy-influencing organizations. Conservation social scientists, too, need to be willing to engage with natural science knowledge and to communicate insights and recommendations clearly. We urge the conservation community to move beyond superficial engagement with the conservation social sciences. A more inclusive and integrative conservation science – one that includes the natural and social sciences – will enable more ecologically effective and socially just conservation. Better collaboration among social scientists, natural scientists, practitioners, and policy makers will facilitate a renewed and more robust conservation. Mainstreaming the conservation social sciences will facilitate the uptake of the full range of insights and contributions from these fields into conservation policy and practice.
Download from here
My latest publication, in the journal Conservation Biology, is titled “Using perceptions as evidence to improve conservation and environmental management”. In this article, I argue for a broader view of evidence in adaptive environmental management and evidence-based conservation. I clarify how perceptions can be used as a form of evidence to guide conservation decision making and action taking. Perceptions provide critical insights into how people view social impacts, ecological outcomes, governance processes and management. Peoples understandings and evaluations of these four factors ultimately determines their level of support for conservation. Conservation success depends on long-term local support.
Link to the article: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12681/abstract
Reference: Bennett, N. J. (2016). Using perceptions as evidence to improve conservation and environmental management. Conservation Biology. online.
Abstract: The conservation community is increasingly focusing on the monitoring and
evaluation of management, governance, ecological, and social considerations as part of a broader move toward adaptive management and evidence-based conservation. Evidence is any information that can be used to come to a conclusion and support a judgment or, in this case, to make decisions that will improve conservation policies, actions, and outcomes. Perceptions are one type of information that is often dismissed as anecdotal by those arguing for evidence-based conservation. In this paper, I clarify the contributions of research on perceptions of conservation to improving adaptive and evidence-based conservation. Studies of the perceptions of local people can provide important insights into observations, understandings and interpretations of the social impacts and ecological outcomes of conservation; the legitimacy of conservation governance; and the social acceptability of environmental management. Perceptions of these factors contribute to positive or negative local evaluations of conservation initiatives. It is positive perceptions, not just objective scientific evidence of effectiveness, that ultimately ensure the support of local constituents thus enabling the long-term success of conservation. Research on perceptions can inform courses of action to improve conservation and governance at scales ranging from individual initiatives to national and international policies. Better incorporation of evidence from across the social and natural sciences and integration of a plurality of methods into monitoring and evaluation will provide a more complete picture on which to base conservation decisions and environmental management.
Keywords: monitoring and evaluation; evidence-based conservation; conservation social science; environmental social science; protected areas; environmental governance; adaptive management
This post is to alert you to the publication of a new report titled “The Conservation Social Sciences: What?, How? and Why?” that I edited with Robin Roth. The report can be downloaded from here.
Citation: Bennett, N. J. & Roth, R. (eds.) (2015). The Conservation Social Sciences: What?, How? and Why? Vancouver, BC: Canadian Wildlife Federation and Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia. DOI: 10.13140/2.1.2664.3529
Overview of Report
Each of the fields of conservation social science has made and can make a unique contribution to understanding the relationship between humans and nature and to improving conservation outcomes. Conservation scientists, practitioners and organizations recognize the importance of the conservation social sciences and are increasingly engaging in and funding conservation social science research. Yet conservation organizations and funders often lack a clear understanding of the breadth of the conservation social sciences, the types of questions that each field of conservation social science poses, the methods used by disciplinary specialists, or the potential contribution of each field of conservation social science to improving conservation practice and outcomes. Limited social science capacity and knowledge within conservation organizations may also mean that conservation practitioners and organizations looking to fund conservation social science research do not know where or how to begin defining a social science research agenda.
This report presents a series of papers that were given as part of a workshop titled “The conservation social sciences: Clarifying ‘what?’, “how?’ and ‘why?’ to inform conservation practice” that occurred at the North American Congress for Conservation Biology in Missoula, Montana in July 2014. The workshop brought together specialists from the breadth of the conservation social sciences to define the contributions of their disciplines and fields to conservation through exploring the ‘what?’, ‘how?’ and ‘why?’ of each area of expertise. The resultant report aims to stimulate dialogue among conservation organizations, foundations, agencies, practitioners and researchers about the role of the conservation social sciences. It is intended to build capacity, promote knowledge and foster engagement with conservation social sciences in order to improve conservation practice and outcomes.
The first chapter of the report introduces the conservation social sciences. The body of the report provides succinct synopses of the different conservation social sciences by specialists in Psychology, Economics, Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science and Governance, Human Dimensions, Political Ecology, Ethics, Education and Communication, Conservation and Development, and Science and Technology Studies. The concluding chapter a) provides a broad overview of the topics explored, questions asked, methods used and contributions made by each field of conservation social science and b) presents a process by which conservation organizations or funders can define and prioritize a conservation social science research agenda. We propose five steps to guide organizations wishing to better employ the conservation social sciences: 1) Recognize and overcome organizational barriers to incorporating conservation social sciences and build support for and understanding of the conservation social sciences; 2) Identify the conservation problem(s) that the organization aims to address and highlight their social dimensions; 3) Partner with social scientist(s) to frame key topics, questions and approach; 4) Brainstorm key topics for investigation or research questions and prioritize them to establish a conservation social science agenda; and 5) Partner with, contract or hire conservation social scientist(s) to carry out the work.
Table of Contents
- Introducing the Conservation Social Sciences – Nathan J. Bennett & Robin Roth
- A Primer on Environmental Anthropology for Conservation Biologists – Georgina Cullman
- Conservation and Sociology – Richard C. Stedman
- Ecological Economics and Its Potential Role in Conservation – Kai M. A. Chan, Michael Barkusky & Sarah C. Klain
- A (Social) Psychology Approach in Conservation – Tara L. Teel, Alia M. Dietsch & Michael J. Manfredo
- Political Science, Environmental Governance and Conservation – Graham Epstein
- Conservation Ethics as a Conservation Social Science – Michael Paul Nelson & John A. Vucetich
- Beyond ‘the Gap’: Connecting Conservation Science with Policy and Practice – Carina Wyborn
- Informing Conservation Practice Through Environmental Education: The “What”, “How” and “Why” – Rebecca E. W. Thomas
- Win-Win or Trade-Offs?: The Study of Conservation and Development at Local, National and Global Scales – Nathan J. Bennett
- Conservation of What for Whom?: A Political Ecological Approach to Conservation – Robin Roth
- Human Dimensions and the Evolution of Interdisciplinary Approaches in Conservation Social Science – Douglas A. Clark
- The Conservation Social Sciences: An Overview and A Process for Setting a Research Agenda – Nathan J. Bennett, Robin Roth, Sarah Klain, Kai M. A. Chan, Douglas A. Clark, Georgina Cullman, Graham Epstein, Michael Paul Nelson, Richard Stedman, Tara L. Teel, Rebecca E. W. Thomas & Carina Wyborn