3679 Networks and Policy Learning for Sustainability

Monday, February 21, 2011: 10:45 AM
156 (Washington Convention Center )
Adam D. Henry , West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
Networks connecting participants of the policy process—including scientists, resource users, and decisionmakers—help to shape actors’ collective ability to learn about and manage complex problems of sustainability.  This paper explores the mechanisms that drive the formation and evolution of policy networks, including both institutional constraints (how networks are structured by laws or other forms of rules) and endogenous drivers (how networks self-organize as a result of individual behaviors).  Network self-organization often works against successful learning, especially when networks evolve into fragmented, segregated structures that inhibit the efficient spread and synthesis of policy-relevant information.  The literature on social psychology provides some insight into why this often occurs in the context of sustainability issues.  On the other hand, a better understanding of these endogenous drivers will inform the design of institutions that are likely to support successful policy learning.  Thus, a networks approach not only illustrates why many issues of sustainability are mired in political conflict, but also offers practical insights into how these conflicts may be resolved and how actors may successfully engage in policy learning for sustainability.
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