Co-production of knowledge in adaptive landscape approaches

How to navigate between singularity of case studies and production of actionable knowledge on complex human-environment systems? The GLP Working Group on Co-production of Sustainable Land Systems is addressing this question through an analysis of co-production practices in the field of land system science. However, taking stock of experiences in the field of land system sciences is really challenging as pointed by Patrick Meyfroidt in a recent GLP Blog on ‘Middle-range theories of land system change’.

A practical way forward was to organize a webinar series for GLP scientists to share their experiences in co-production. The second webinar was illustrating practical examples about adaptive landscape approaches. The three presenters showed that role-playing games (RPG) can be versatile tools for co-production of knowledge. They reported RPG use for understanding land system changes, for engaging stakeholders into transformative landscape approaches and for shaping policies.

For understanding land system changes

Christine Ornetsmüller from Commonland Foundation and VU University Amsterdam, illustrated the use of RPG to elicit knowledge from multi-stakeholder groups including farmers, agricultural experts and scientists. The multiscale gaming approach she presented combines games for several purposes. Local games help establish system understanding and a metagame operationalizes and tests the system understanding. The approach was developed and applied to understand land use decisions of farmers during the maize boom and bust in northern Laos.

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For engaging communities into transformative pathways

Jean-Christophe Castella, from IRD-CIRAD, used RPG to engage communities into transformative landscape pathways. After co-designing village level land use plans, local farmers negotiated the successive stages of the transition to new agroecological practices and landscape management rules. They discussed options and found compromises using participatory mapping and RPG. Scaling-up promising results calls for a major change in extension approaches that would turn extension agents from lecturers to facilitators in adaptive learning approaches.

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For informing policies

Claude Garcia, from CIRAD and ETH Zurich, told the story of a team of researchers invited as facilitators in a FSC-led policy negotiation. The group used RPG to explore the future of tropical forest landscapes in Central Africa over the next decades. They could share and confront their perceptions of the system, better grasp its complexities, explore alternative futures in a low-risk environment, and negotiate new forms of collective action. The RPG supported complex negotiations for forest management under conditions of high uncertainty and divergent interests.

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The webinar did capture the large range of situations where RPG qualities can be harnessed. One important quality of RPG is that they are fun and attractive to motivate a diversity of people to engage in co-learning and co-production. The speakers stressed the key role of facilitators in making co-production process possible. Today, massive training of facilitators is required to bring these approaches to scale and generalize them beyond the limited researchers-experts circles. Conveners of co-production processes are also key enabling agents and should be recognized as such. Finally yet importantly, power imbalance is very important to take into account in co-production processes, which is further stressing the key role of facilitators training in insuring fair negotiations.

More information about Companion Modelling

You can also view materials and recordings of the first and third webinars.