Economics and Policies of Conservation and Sustainable Resource Use
In the words of Arjen Wals and Tore van der Leij (2009): “The nature of sustainability-challenges seems to be such that a routine problem-solving approach falls short….” Communities of learners must “…think in terms of challenges to be taken on in the full realization that as soon as we appear to have met the challenge, things will have changed and the horizon will have shifted once again.” Social-ecological innovation is a particularly promising goal for these learning communities because it emphasizes iterative, ongoing attention to changing conditions and uncertainty, which sparks new ideas, processes, and products to address conservation problems. But engaging multi-stakeholder groups in social-ecological innovation is complicated, unique to each situation. My research will therefore focus on the potential for Developmental Evaluation (Patton, 2011) to serve as a useful framework to design and improve learning programs that catalyze innovation. Specifically, I will study the influence of developmental evaluation on stakeholder capacity to engage in social-ecological innovation through the ongoing University of Minnesota Seven Mile Creek project, aimed at innovation of a sustainable community bio-economy.