Sustainability Science

, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 1187–1200 | Cite as

Exploring multiple dimensions of values and valuing: a conceptual framework for mapping and translating values for social-ecological research and practice

  • Andrea RawlukEmail author
  • Rebecca Ford
  • Nerida Anderson
  • Kathryn Williams
Special Feature: Original Article Theoretical traditions in social values for sustainability
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Special Feature: Theoretical traditions in social values for sustainability


Social values underpin complex social-ecological challenges, such as sustainability. However, there are many ways of conceptualising values and valuing, and this divergence limits conversations across research disciplines, hindering the practical incorporation of values into sustainability decision making. We identify two key tensions in the disparate and fragmented ways of understanding the nature of values: context dependence and level of abstractness. We consider how these tensions apply across a breadth of concepts relevant to understanding the importance of socio-ecological systems to people, including valued attributes and assets, cultural values, and connection to place. We propose a conceptual framework structured by these tensions to orient multiple value concepts in relation to each other. We present the conceptual framework as being ontologically plural, and epistemologically flexible, providing a framework for mapping value concepts across different levels of abstractness and context dependency. The framework offers a means to span the breadth of value concepts and acts as a starting point for fostering cross-disciplinary conversations. We discuss the implications of the framework for researchers engaging with multiple theoretical traditions, as well as for practitioners grappling with how to make sense of what is important to the communities.


Social values Valuing Ontology Interdisciplinarity Theory Social-ecological 


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Rawluk
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rebecca Ford
    • 1
  • Nerida Anderson
    • 1
  • Kathryn Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Ecosystem and Forest SciencesUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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