Sustainability Science

, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 1323–1332 | Cite as

Social learning as a link between the individual and the collective: evaluating deliberation on social values

  • Max Eriksson
  • Carena J. van RiperEmail author
  • Ben Leitschuh
  • Amanda Bentley Brymer
  • Andrea Rawluk
  • Christopher M. Raymond
  • Jasper O. Kenter
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


The role of social learning in deliberative processes is an emerging area of research in sustainability science. Functioning as a link between the individual and the collective, social learning has been envisioned as a process that can empower and give voice to a diverse set of stakeholder viewpoints, contribute to more adaptive and resilient management decisions and foster broader societal transformations. However, despite its widespread use in the context of participatory management of natural resources, the empirical properties of social learning remain understudied. This paper evaluates the role of social interaction and social capital in achieving transformative learning in discussions about social values. We employ a longitudinal design involving three consecutive surveys of 25 participants of an expert workshop focused on social values, as well as approximately 12 hours of transcribed audio and video recordings of participant interactions. Our mixed methods approach demonstrates the potential of using changes in social networks and definitions of social values that emerge from qualitative coding as indicators of social learning. We find that individuals with a weaker conceptual understanding of social values are more likely to change their definitions of the concept after deliberation. Though slight, these changes display a shift towards definitions more firmly held by other group members.


Social learning Social values Sustainability Social capital Mixed methods 



The social values expert workshop was supported by the Valuing Nature Programme, funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) under grant reference NE/M005410/1. We also thank the Great Lakes Fishery Commission for providing personnel support (contract: 2018_VAN_44076) that made this research possible.

Supplementary material

11625_2019_725_MOESM1_ESM.docx (17 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 16 kb)


  1. Argyris C, Schön DA (1978) Organizational learning: a theory of action perspective. Addison-Wesley Pub. Co, MAGoogle Scholar
  2. Armitage D, Marschke M, Plummer R (2008) Adaptive co-management and the paradox of learning. Glob Environ Change 18(1):86–98Google Scholar
  3. Armitage D, Berkes F, Dale A, Kocho-Schellenberg E, Patton E (2011) Co-management and the co-production of knowledge: learning to adapt in Canada’s Arctic. Glob Environ Change 21(3):995–1004Google Scholar
  4. Bandura A (1977) Social learning theory. Prentice Hall, Englewood CliffsGoogle Scholar
  5. Bandura A (2018) Toward a psychology of human agency: pathways and reflections. Perspect Psychol Sci 13(2):130–136Google Scholar
  6. Barber WF, Bartlett RV (2005) Deliberative environmental politics: democracy and ecological rationality. MIT Press, MAGoogle Scholar
  7. Bentley Brymer AL, Wulfhorst JD, Brunson MW (2018) Analyzing stakeholders’ workshop dialogue for evidence of social learning. Ecol Soc 23(1):42Google Scholar
  8. Berkes F (2009) Evolution of co-management: role of knowledge generation, bridging organizations and social learning. J Environ Manage 90(5):1692–1702Google Scholar
  9. Bourdieu P (1986) The forms of capital. In: Richardson JG (ed) Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education. Greenwood Press, New York, pp 241–258Google Scholar
  10. Brown TC (1984) The concept of value in resource allocation. Land Econ 60(3):231–246Google Scholar
  11. Brown G, Kyttä M (2014) Key issues and research priorities for public participation GIS (PPGIS): a synthesis based on empirical research. Appl Geogr 46:122–136Google Scholar
  12. Burt RS (2004) Structural holes and good ideas. Am J Sociol 110(2):349–399Google Scholar
  13. Cash DW, Clark WC, Alcock F, Dickson NM, Eckley N, Guston DH, Mitchell RB (2003) Knowledge systems for sustainable development. Proc Natl Acad Sci 100(14):8086–8091Google Scholar
  14. Chan KM, Guerry AD, Balvanera P, Klain S, Satterfield T, Basurto X, Hannahs N (2012) Where are cultural and social in ecosystem services? A framework for constructive engagement. BioScience 62(8):744–756Google Scholar
  15. Chan KM, Balvanera P, Benessaiah K, Chapman M, Díaz S, Gómez-Baggethun E, Luck GW (2016) Opinion: why protect nature? Rethinking values and the environment. Proc Natl Acad Sci 113(6):1462–1465Google Scholar
  16. Chan KM, Gould RK, Pascual U (2018) Editorial overview: relational values: what are they, and what’s the fuss about? Curr Opin Environ Sustain 35:A1–A7Google Scholar
  17. Collins K, Ison R (2009) Jumping off Arnstein’s ladder: social learning as a new policy paradigm for climate change adaptation. Environ Policy Gov 19(6):358–373Google Scholar
  18. Culwick C, Washbourne CL, Anderson PM, Cartwright A, Patel Z, Smit W (2019) CityLab reflections and evolutions: nurturing knowledge and learning for urban sustainability through co-production experimentation. Curr Opin Environ Sustain 39:9–16Google Scholar
  19. Cundill G, Rodela R (2012) A review of assertions about the processes and outcomes of social learning in natural resource management. J Environ Manage 113:7–14Google Scholar
  20. Daniell KA, White I, Ferrand N, Ribarova IS, Coad P, Rougier JE, Perez P (2010) Co-engineering participatory water management processes: theory and insights from Australian and Bulgarian interventions. Ecol Soc 15(4):11Google Scholar
  21. Diduck AP, Raymond CM, Rodela R, Moquin R, Boerchers M (2019) Pathways of learning about biodiversity and sustainability in private urban gardens. J Environ Plan Manag. Google Scholar
  22. Dietsch AM, Teel TL, Manfredo MJ (2016) Social values and biodiversity conservation in a dynamic world. Conserv Biol 30(6):1212–1221Google Scholar
  23. Dietz T (2013) Bringing values and deliberation to science communication. Proc Natl Acad Sci 110(Supplement 3):14081–14087Google Scholar
  24. Dietz T, Ostrom E, Stern PC (2003) The struggle to govern the commons. Science 302(5652):1907Google Scholar
  25. Dryzek JS (1990) Discursive democracy: politics, policy, and political science. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  26. Fischer AP, Vance-Borland K, Burnett KM, Hummel S, Creighton JH, Johnson SL, Jasny L (2014) Does the social capital in networks of “fish and fire” scientists and managers suggest learning? Soc Nat Resour 27(7):671–688Google Scholar
  27. Folke C, Hahn T, Olsson P, Norberg J (2005) Adaptive governance of social-ecological systems. Annu Rev Environ Resour 30(1):441–473Google Scholar
  28. Frantzeskaki N, Kabisch N (2016) Designing a knowledge co-production operating space for urban environmental governance—Lessons from Rotterdam, Netherlands and Berlin, Germany. Environ Sci Policy 62:90–98Google Scholar
  29. Goodin RE (2017) The epistemic benefits of deliberative democracy. Policy Sci 50(3):351–366Google Scholar
  30. Goodin RE, Niemeyer SJ (2003) When does deliberation begin? Internal reflection versus public discussion in deliberative democracy. Political Studies 51:627–649Google Scholar
  31. Gould R, Pai M, Chan K, Muraca B (2019) He ʻike ʻana ia i ka pono (It is a recognizing of the right thing): how many indigenous worldview informs relational values and social values. Sustain Sci. Google Scholar
  32. Graesser AC, Langston MC, Baggett WB (1993) Exploring information about concepts by asking questions. Psychol Learn Mot 29:411–436Google Scholar
  33. Graesser AC, Li H, Forsyth C (2014) Learning by communicating in natural language with conversational agents. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 23:374–380Google Scholar
  34. Grainger D, Stoeckl N (2019) The importance of social learning for non-market valuation. Ecol Econ 164:106339Google Scholar
  35. Granovetter MS (1973) The strength of weak ties. Am J Sociol 78(6):1360–1380Google Scholar
  36. Guest G, Namey EE, Mitchell ML (2012) Collecting qualitative data: A field manual for applied research. Thousand Oaks, CaliforniaGoogle Scholar
  37. Hahn T, Schultz C, Folke C, Olsson P (2008) Social networks as sources of resilience in social-ecological systems. In: Norberg J, Cumming G (eds) Complexity theory for a Sustainable Future. Columbia University Press, NYGoogle Scholar
  38. Irvine KN, O’Brien L, Ravenscroft N, Cooper N, Everard M, Fazey I, Kenter JO (2016) Ecosystem services and the idea of shared values. Ecosyst Serv 21:184–193Google Scholar
  39. Kates RW, Clark WC, Corell R, Hall JM, Jaeger CC, Lowe I et al (2001) Sustainability science. Science 292(5517):641–642Google Scholar
  40. Kendal D, Raymond C (2019) Understanding pathways to shifting people’s values over time in the context of social-ecological systems. Sustain Sci. Google Scholar
  41. Kenter JO (2016) Shared, plural and cultural values. Ecosyst. Serv 21:175–183Google Scholar
  42. Kenter JO, Hyde T, Christie M, Fazey I (2011) The importance of deliberation in valuing ecosystem services in developing countries—evidence from the Solomon Islands. Glob Environ Change 21:505–521. Google Scholar
  43. Kenter JO, O’Brien L, Hockley N, Ravenscroft N, Fazey I, Irvine KN, Church A (2015) What are shared and social values of ecosystems? Ecol Econ 111:86–99Google Scholar
  44. Kenter JO, Reed MS, Fazey I (2016a) The deliberative value formation model. Ecosyst Serv 21:194–207Google Scholar
  45. Kenter JO, Bryce R, Christie M, Cooper N, Hockley N, Irvine KN, Raymond CM (2016b) Shared values and deliberative valuation: future directions. Ecosyst Serv 21:358–371Google Scholar
  46. Kenter JO, Jobstvogt N, Watson V, Irvine KN, Christie M, Bryce R (2016c) The impact of information, value-deliberation and group-based decision-making on values for ecosystem services: integrating deliberative monetary valuation and storytelling. Ecosyst Serv 21:270–290. Google Scholar
  47. Kenter JO, Raymond C, van Riper CJ, Azzopardi E, Brear MR, Calcagni F, Christie I, Chrisite M, Fordham A, Gould RK, Ives CD, Hejnowicz AP, Gunton R, Horcea-Milcu A, Kendal D, Kronenberg J, Massenberg JR, O’Connor S, Ravenscroft N, Raymond IJ, Rawluk A, Rodríguez-Morales J, Thankappan S (2019) Loving the mess: navigating diversity and conflict in social values for sustainability. Sustain Sci. Google Scholar
  48. Kulundu I (2012) In pursuit of participation: tracking the influence of local action for sustainable development. Lotz-Sisitka, HB (ed.). Views on Social Learning Literature: A monograph for social learning researchers in natural resources management and environmental education, Environmental Learning Research Centre, Rhodes University/EEASA/SADC REEP, GrahamstownGoogle Scholar
  49. Levin DZ, Cross R (2004) The strength of weak ties you can trust: the mediating role of trust in effective knowledge transfer. Manage Sci 50(11):1477–1490Google Scholar
  50. Liu J, Dietz T, Carpenter SR, Alberti M, Folke C, Moran E, Ostrom E (2007) Complexity of coupled human and natural systems. Science 317(5844):1513–1516Google Scholar
  51. Lundmark C, Matti S, Sandström A (2014) Adaptive co-management: how social networks, deliberation and learning affect legitimacy in carnivore management. Eur J Wildl Res 60(4):637–644Google Scholar
  52. Manfredo MJ, Bruskotter JT, Teel TL, Fulton D, Schwartz SH, Arlinghaus R, Sullivan L (2017) Why social values cannot be changed for the sake of conservation. Conserv Biol 31(4):772–780Google Scholar
  53. Marshall C, Rossman GB (2006) Designing qualitative research. Sage Publications Inc, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  54. Massenberg JR (2019) Social values and sustainability: a retrospective view on the contribution of economics. Sustain Sci. Google Scholar
  55. McCrum G, Blackstock K, Matthews K, Rivington M, Miller D, Buchan K (2009) Adapting to climate change in land management: the role of deliberative workshops in enhancing social learning. Environ Policy Governance 19(6):413–426Google Scholar
  56. McPherson JM, Smith-Lovin L (1987) Homophily in voluntary organizations: status distance and the composition of face-to-face groups. Am Sociol Rev 52(3):370–379Google Scholar
  57. Medema W, Furber A, Adamowski J, Zhou Q, Mayer I (2016) Exploring the potential impact of serious games on social learning and stakeholder collaborations for transboundary watershed management of the St Lawrence River Basin. Water 8(5):175Google Scholar
  58. Merriam BS, Caffarella SR (1998) Learning in adulthood. A comprehensive guide, 2nd edn. Jossey-Bass Publishers, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  59. Muro M, Jeffrey P (2008) A critical review of the theory and application of social learning in participatory natural resource management processes. J Environ Planning Manage 51(3):325–344Google Scholar
  60. O'Connor S, Kenter JO (2019) Making intrinsic values work; integrating intrinsic values of the more-than-human world through the Life Framework of Values. Sustain Sci. Google Scholar
  61. Ostrom E (1990) Governing the commons: the evolution of institutions for collective action. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  62. Ostrom E (2009) A general framework for analyzing sustainability of social-ecological systems. Science 325(5939):419–422Google Scholar
  63. Pahl-Wostl C, Craps M, Dewulf A, Mostert E, Tabara D, Taillieu T (2007) Social learning and water resources management. Ecol Soc 12(2):5Google Scholar
  64. Pahl-Wostl C, Tàbara D, Bouwen R, Craps M, Dewulf A, Mostert E, Taillieu T (2008) The importance of social learning and culture for sustainable water management. Ecol Econ 64(3):484–495Google Scholar
  65. Pascual U, Balvanera P, Díaz S, Pataki G, Roth E, Stenseke M, Maris V (2017) Valuing nature’s contributions to people: the IPBES approach. Curr Opin Environ Sustain 26:7–16Google Scholar
  66. Pellizzoni L (2001) The myth of the best argument: power, deliberation and reason. British J Sociol 52:59–86Google Scholar
  67. Plieninger T, Dijks S, Oteros-Rozas E, Bieling C (2013) Assessing, mapping, and quantifying cultural ecosystem services at community level. Land Use Policy 33:118–129Google Scholar
  68. Prell C, Hubacek K, Reed M (2009) Stakeholder analysis and social network analysis in natural resource management. Soc Nat Resour 22(6):501–518Google Scholar
  69. Pretty J, Ward H (2001) Social capital and the environment. World Dev 29(2):209–227Google Scholar
  70. Putnam RD (2000) Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital. In Culture and politics Palgrave Macmillan, New York, pp 223–234Google Scholar
  71. Ravenscroft N (2019) A new normative economics for the formation of shared social values. Sustain Sci. Google Scholar
  72. Rawluk A, Ford R, Anderson N, Williams K (2019) Exploring multiple dimensions of values and valuing: a conceptual framework for mapping and translating values for social-ecological research and practice. Sustain Sci. Google Scholar
  73. Raymond CM, Kenter JO (2016) Transcendental values and the valuation and management of ecosystem services. Ecosyst Serv 21:241–257Google Scholar
  74. Raymond CM, Kenter JO, Plieninger T, Turner NJ, Alexander KA (2014) Comparing instrumental and deliberative paradigms underpinning the assessment of social values for cultural ecosystem services. Ecol Econ 107:145–156Google Scholar
  75. Raymond CM, Kenter JO, Kendal D, van Riper CJ, Rawluk A (2018) Call for papers for “Theoretical traditions in social values for sustainability”. Sustain Sci 13(2):269–271Google Scholar
  76. Reed MS, Evely AC, Cundill G, Fazey I, Glass J, Laing A, Stringer LC (2010) What is social learning? Ecol Soc 15(4):r1Google Scholar
  77. Reich RB (1985) Public administration and public deliberation: an interpretive essay. Yale Law J. 94(7):1617–1641Google Scholar
  78. Reyers B, Nel JL, O’Farrell PJ, Sitas N, Nel DC (2015) Navigating complexity through knowledge coproduction: mainstreaming ecosystem services into disaster risk reduction. Proc Natl Acad Sci 112(24):7362–7368Google Scholar
  79. Rist S, Chidambaranathan M, Escobar C, Wiesmann U, Zimmermann A (2007) Moving from sustainable management to sustainable governance of natural resources: the role of social learning processes in rural India, Bolivia and Mali. J Rural Stud 23(1):23–37Google Scholar
  80. Rodela R (2011) Social learning and natural resource management: the emergence of three research perspectives. Ecol Soc 16(4):30Google Scholar
  81. Rodela R (2013) The social learning discourse: trends, themes and interdisciplinary influences in current research. Environ Sci Policy 25:157–166Google Scholar
  82. Rokeach M (1973) The nature of human values. Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  83. Schroeder H (2013) Sensing value in place. In: Stewart W, Williams D, Kruger L (eds) Place-based conservation: perspectives from the social sciences. Springer, The Netherlands, pp 131–155Google Scholar
  84. Schusler TM, Decker DJ, Pfeffer MJ (2003) Social learning for collaborative natural resource management. Soc Nat Resour 16(4):309–326Google Scholar
  85. Schwartz SH (1994) Are there universal aspects in the structure and contents of human values? J Soc Issues 50(4):19–45Google Scholar
  86. Scott J (1988) Social network analysis. Sociology 22(1):109–127Google Scholar
  87. Steyaert P, Jiggins J (2007) Governance of complex environmental situations through social learning: a synthesis of SLIM’s lessons for research, policy and practice. Environ Sci Policy 10(6):575–586Google Scholar
  88. Umemoto K, Suryanata K (2006) Technology, culture, and environmental uncertainty: considering social contracts in adaptive management. J Plan Educa Res 25(3):264–274Google Scholar
  89. van Riper CJ, Kyle GT (2014) Capturing multiple values of ecosystem services shaped by environmental worldview: A spatial analysis. J Environ Manag 145:374–384Google Scholar
  90. van Riper CJ, Kyle GT, Sutton SG, Barnes M, Sherrouse BC (2012) Mapping outdoor recreationists’ perceived social values for ecosystem services at Hinchinbrook Island National Park Australia. Appl Geogr 35(1–2):164–173Google Scholar
  91. van Riper CJ, Wallen KE, Landon AC, Petriello MA, Kyle GT, Absher J (2016) Modeling the trust-risk relationship in a wildland recreation setting: a social exchange perspective. J Outdoor Recreation Tourism 13:23–33Google Scholar
  92. van Riper CJ, Thiel A, Penker M, Braito M, Landon AC, Thomsen J, Tucker CM (2018) Incorporating multi-level values into the social-ecological systems framework. Ecol Soc 23(3):25Google Scholar
  93. van Riper CJ, Winkler-Schor S, Stamberger L, Keller R, Braito M, Raymond C, Eriksson M, Golebie E, Johnson D (2019) Integrating multi-level values and pro-environmental behavior in a US protected area. Sustain Sci. Google Scholar
  94. Vinke-de Kruijf J, Pahl-Wostl C (2016) A multi-level perspective on learning about climate change adaptation through international cooperation. Environ Sci Policy 66:242–249Google Scholar
  95. Wal M, De Kraker J, Offermans A, Kroeze C, Kirschner PA, Ittersum M (2014) Measuring social learning in participatory approaches to natural resource management. Environ Policy Gov 24(1):1–15Google Scholar
  96. Webler T, Kastenholz H, Renn O (1995) Public participation in impact assessment: a social learning perspective. Environ Impact Assess Rev 15:443–463Google Scholar
  97. Wenger E (1999) Communities of practice: learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Environmental Science ProgramUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA
  3. 3.University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Helsinki Institute of Sustainability ScienceUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  5. 5.Ecosystems and Environment Research Program, Faculty of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  6. 6.Department of Environmental and Resource Economics, Faculty of Agriculture and ForestryUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  7. 7.Department of Environment and GeographyUniversity of YorkYorkUK

Personalised recommendations