Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 470–478 | Cite as

Service-learning: a tool to create social capital for collaborative natural resource management

  • Kim ColemanEmail author
  • Cecilia Danks


The complexity of many natural resource problems does not allow for simple solutions and cannot be addressed by singular organizations. Collaborative natural resource management is required to address such problems. Because social capital facilitates collaborative action within and between groups, it is important to understand the conditions under which it is created and how its creation can be taught to future environmental professionals. Using interviews, participant observation, and project documents, we conducted a case study of a community forestry initiative in which university students and faculty worked with a public high school, local nonprofits, state agency representatives, and local community members to enhance the use and sustainable management of the school-owned forest. The study found that the establishment of norms of interactions, attention to reciprocity, and organizational capacity to sustain the university-community relationship lead to positive outcomes, including social capital development.


Service-learning Social capital Collaborative natural resource management 



This project was supported by the Northeastern States Research Cooperative through funding made available by the USDA Forest Service. The conclusions and opinions in this paper are those of the authors and not of the NSRC, the Forest Service, or the USDA. We additionally wish to thank the National Life Group Charitable Foundation for their support of the Harwood Union Forest Project, as well as all the individuals who participated in the project.


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Copyright information

© AESS 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Forest Resources and Environmental ConservationVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.The Environmental Program and The Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural ResourcesUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA

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