57-20 Lessons from Active Adaptive Management Experience

Tuesday, September 6, 2011: 2:30 PM
305 (The Conference Center)
C.S. Holling , University of Florida, Department of Biology, Nanaimo, BC, Canada
In each project, make the overall goal large, and unattainable- things related to justice, equity and opportunity.  However, make the first step tough, simple, doable and open. Design the second step from the success and failures of the first and retain the overall, impossible goal. Ditto for each succeeding step.

Rarely do organizations monitor, abandon, experiment and modify.  They need to.

In any project, the analysis and communication takes one and one half years, with  three workshops involving a diverse community. Design several vizualizations of past and of futures that can be quickly perceived.  Then add a few open discussions with people representing combinations of every possible interest.  Encourage them to discover stereotypes, and begin to communicate across interests. 

On the side, continue questioning theory, conducting tests and inventing expansions to theory.  Your actions change the world, therefore your knowledge is limited.

Much of established theory is irrelevant at the time- too simplistic, too static, too uniform in scale and perceived by the originators as too certain.

The fixed world of standard environmental protection is rigid and wrong. So is command and control. Most management is still command and control.

The key failure is of implementation, not of evaluation, or understanding, or policy. That is because the politics of the lobbies freezes abilities to act.

Often environmentalists become narrow "lobbyists", pushing simplistic explanations , avoiding shared discovery,  ignoring uncertainty and fearful of adaptive experiments. But that is true of all activist groups. Support them all, but add balance.

We live in a slice of time on a spot in space.  Therefore we see myopically.  But we adapt if we recognize ignorance, monitor and innovate/invent.   But lobbies fight that.

Organizations begin with brilliance, pause with rigidity and then die or persist with irrelevance. They rarely transform.  Therefore, find or invent new institutions. The Resilience Alliance is one such <resalliance.org>.

Beautiful, resilient, flexible policies are never accepted until a social, political window unexpectedly opens; then they can explode.

Design large experiments, with small parts and just sufficient complexity. They will always fail (partly). Learn when they fail.

Lobbyists oppose experiments to test policies. The opposition usually persists and succeeds in inhibiting change for a good while at least.

Resilience comes when individuals can access diversity of opportunity at times of crisis or transformation. Be resilient.

Have fun- write limericks, make jokes, invent celebrations, paint and sculpt, dance and make music.