2008 volume 40(4) pages 867 – 884
doi:10.1068/a39148

Cite as:
Pelling M, High C, Dearing J, Smith D, 2008, "Shadow spaces for social learning: a relational understanding of adaptive capacity to climate change within organisations" Environment and Planning A 40(4) 867 – 884

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Shadow spaces for social learning: a relational understanding of adaptive capacity to climate change within organisations

Mark Pelling, Chris High, John Dearing, Denis Smith

Received 5 August 2005; in revised form 25 April 2006; published online 11 June 2007

Abstract. Recent UK government policy on climate change, and wider policy movement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, emphasise the building of adaptive capacity. But what are the institutional constraints that shape capacity to build adaptive organisations? The authors synthesise theory from social learning and institutional aspects of multilevel environmental governance to help unpack the patterns of individual and collective action within organisations that can enhance or restrict organisational adaptive capacity in the face of abrupt climate change. Theoretical synthesis is grounded by empirical work with a local dairy farmers group and two supporting public sector bodies that are both local actors in their own rights and which also shape the operating environment for other local actors (the Environment Agency and the Welsh Assembly and Assembly-sponsored public bodies). Providing space within and between local organisations for individuals to develop private as well as officially sanctioned social relationships is supported as a pathway to enable social learning. It is also a resource for adaptation that requires little financial investment but does call for a rethinking of the personal skills and working routines that are incentivised within organisations.

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