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Social Learning Through Evaluation: A Case Study of Overcoming Constraints for Management of Dryland Salinity

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Abstract

Conventional approaches to evaluation of environmental programs have tended to limit themselves to restricted measures of program effectiveness. This paper shows how a social learning approach can be incorporated into evaluating public environmental programs. A social learning approach is particularly suited to complex environmental challenges which are inherently difficult to understand, predict, and manage, thus complicating the evaluation process. The paper presents an Australian case study of dryland salinity management where there are major knowledge barriers impeding conventional management techniques. The research presented in this paper focused on evaluating a public demonstration program to track its impact through its design, implementation, and monitoring phases. The paper shows that, by incorporating social learning principles and practices, program evaluation can promote collective action, critical reflection, and increased knowledge to underpin improved environmental management.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by Wallatin Wildlife and Landcare Inc., CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, and the CSIRO Water for Healthy Country Flagship. I thank Glenice Batchelor and all participants for their commitment and enthusiasm. Thanks also go to Toni Darbas and Heinz Schandl, along with three anonymous reviewers, for helpful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Thomas G. Measham.

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Measham, T.G. Social Learning Through Evaluation: A Case Study of Overcoming Constraints for Management of Dryland Salinity. Environmental Management 43, 1096–1107 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-008-9265-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-008-9265-5

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