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Learning to Negotiate – Negotiating to Learn

Greg Leach1 and Dana Thomsen2

1 Natural Resources and Mines, Email
Natural Resources and Mines, Email


The increasing complexity of our dense and tangled global systems see ‘knowing’ and ‘prediction’ being surrendered to ‘uncertainty’ and ‘multiple truths’. This study explores improved extension models for natural resource management by presenting a decision-making framework underpinned by a combination of social learning and negotiation to deal with burgeoning multi-stakeholder complexity and interdependency. This framework embraces participant diversity and distinctiveness in interactions and seeks to progress the mix of narratives necessary for achieving sustainable NRM, rather than normative approaches that cultivate unidirectional, single paradigm and ultimately ineffective decisions. It has been built from our learnings with Queensland Regional NRM Bodies, community groups and State agencies. We argue that negotiation is a vital component of effective social learning to ensure that natural resource decision-making is contextual, actionable and sustainable. We seek adaptive management and reciprocity through purposefully constructing the negotiation space necessary for exploring and reframing the certainty of our current positions, beliefs and explanations. Particular attention is paid to drawing out individual participant uncertainties, creativity and enthusiasm to more effectively drive the collaborative social processes required for truly adaptive management in multi-partied processes for NRM. Consequently, a series of prompts and critical questions are included in the framework to ensure that social learning and negotiation are approached and facilitated as interdependent processes. We propose that this framework can form a conceptual and practical basis for NRM extension practitioners to facilitate decision-making across various stakeholder groups and thereby enable change in NRM practice.

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