Learning from one another: evaluating the impact of horizontal knowledge exchange for environmental management and governance

Celine Tschirhart, Jayalaxshmi Mistry, Andrea Berardi, Elisa Bignante, Matthew Simpson, Lakeram Haynes, Ryan Benjamin, Grace Albert, Rebecca Xavier, Bernie Robertson, Odacy Davis, Caspar Verwer, Géraud de Ville, Deirdre Jafferally

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There is increasing advocacy for inclusive community-based approaches to environmental management, and growing evidence that involving communities improves the sustainability of social-ecological systems. Most community-based approaches rely on partnerships and knowledge exchange between communities, civil society organisations and professionals such as practitioners and/or scientists. However, few models have actively integrated more horizontal knowledge exchange from community to community. In this paper, we reflect on the transferability of community owned solutions between Indigenous communities, exploring challenges and achievements of community peer-to-peer knowledge exchange as a way of empowering communities to face up to local environmental and social challenges. Using participatory visual methods, Indigenous communities of the North Rupununi (Guyana), identified and documented their community owned solutions through films and photostories. Indigenous researchers from this community then shared their solutions with six other communities that faced similar challenges within Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela, Colombia, French Guiana and Brazil. They were supported by in-country civil society organisations and academics. We analysed the impact of the knowledge exchange through interviews, field reports and observations. Our results show that Indigenous community members are significantly more receptive to solutions emerging from, and communicated by, other Indigenous peoples, and that this approach is a significant motivating force for galvanising communities to make changes in their community. We identified a range of enabling factors, such as building capacity for a shared conceptual and technical understanding, that strengthens the exchange between communities and contributes to a lasting impact. With national and international policymakers mobilising significant financial resources for biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation, we argue that the promotion of community owned solutions through community peer-to-peer exchange may deliver more long-lasting, socially and ecologically integrated, and investment-effective strategies compared to top down, expert led and/or foreign-led initiatives.
Original languageEnglish
Article number41
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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