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Political Research Exchange - PRX

A Network Approach to Collective Learning in Environment Policy-Making

Cécile Riche
Université catholique de Louvain
Cécile Riche
Université catholique de Louvain

Collaborative governance structures which involve diverse public and private actors holding different views and interests are more and more common for coping with environmental problems. Collective learning, characterized by the development of shared understandings and by the alignment of actors’ perspectives and goals, is crucial to build effective environmental policies and achieve cross-scale integration. Although recent studies suggest that collective learning in collaborative governance structures happens when communication is facilitated, interactions are frequent, and interpersonal trust is sustained, more research is needed to specify network-level factors of collective learning. In particular, the nature of the ties which link network members with one another and the types of knowledge they exchange through those ties have not been investigated yet. Based on autocorrelation analyses of three Belgian collaborative structures involved in environmental policy-making, this communication assesses the role of network for collective learning, defined as the extent to which individuals perceive that actors’ perspectives and goals have aligned over time. The three networks are composed of 10 to 20 individuals who were both surveyed and interviewed about their participation. It appears that the number of strong ties held by an individual with other members of the network positively influences her perception of collective learning. Moreover, the acquisition of knowledge about other participants’ interests also fosters collective learning. In sum, this communications on collective learning among social networks highlights the social processes that should be promoted in order to tackle environmental challenges.
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