Finding Ourselves in the Messy Entanglement of Complexity: An Introduction to the Challenges and Opportunities in Social Ecological Systems

  • Andrea RawlukEmail author
  • Ruth Beilin
  • Helena Bender
  • Rebecca Ford


In this chapter, we describe the context and reasons why we came to write this book, the book’s aims, the approach taken, the intended audience and the structure of the book. We recognise that the planet currently faces many complex sustainability issues and that social ecological systems (SES) research offers exciting approaches to respond to these challenges. However, integration of knowledges from different disciplines, and across multiple scales is messy and has only been partially achieved. Consequently, the book aims to:
  • propose and illustrate ‘adaptive doing’, a practice-oriented process for integrating research in SES;

  • demonstrate three reframing tools from the social sciences—the 4 Is, assemblage and the concept of the eternally unfolding present—that can assist SES researchers and practitioners to participate in ‘adaptive doing’; and

  • overcome disciplinary silos by creating a social learning platform that we call the ‘agora’, which opens a space where SES researchers and practitioners can learn and re-imagine their SES practices as well as posit diverse possible outcomes.

We argue that researchers and practitioners can respond to these complexities and changing contexts, integrating new learnings, with a focus on practice first.


Social ecological systems Interdisciplinarity Sustainability Knowledge Integration 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Rawluk
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ruth Beilin
    • 1
  • Helena Bender
    • 1
  • Rebecca Ford
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Ecosystem and Forest SciencesUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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