RURAL | Learning

Posted on 21/11/2022


One of the things that I have not written much about is how ideas of learning are embedded in design and transitions. In transitions, system change is system learning. In sustainable transitions theory, learning is “inherent to the experimental and action-oriented nature of transition pathways, which develop in uncertain and often contested wider contexts characterising transition processes”. However, learning theories have not been significantly applied to transitions contexts to explore how system or social learning occurs. In rural design, just as in transitions, learning is necessary for problem solving and futuring.

In seeking to understand more about learning in sustainable transitions, contributing researchers to a special issue of Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions applied numerous learning theories including social learning, collaborative learning, organisational learning, interactive learning in innovation systems, policy learning and pragmatist education theory. In summarising the collected papers in the special issue, the editors propose,

learning in transitions [is] a process of acquiring and generating new knowledge and insights, and of meaning-making of experiences in communicative interaction, in a reciprocal relationship with the social, (bio-)physical and institutional context. Moreover, it is a non-linear, iterative process in which ideas and possibilities for collaborative action are being developed, experimented with and pursued in a diversity of networks.

Despite my belief that design and planning, should have these ideas at their heart, it rarely seems to happen in practice. Learning by doing is also a core principle of sustainable transitions and transitions experiments. In transitions approaches, reflexive monitoring also supports participants (community of practice, multi-actor group, niche, transition arena etc) also understand what has been learned and how it has been learned so that ongoing learning and learning questions are enabled.

Posted in: ruraldesign