Adaptive management: From more talk to real action

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Authors: B.K. Williams, E.D. Brown

Publication Year: 2013


Journal: Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management

Volume: 53

Issue: 2

Categories: Information Management, Adaptive Management


The challenges currently facing resource managers are large-scale and complex, and demand new approaches to balance development and conservation goals. One approach that shows considerable promise for addressing these challenges is adaptive management, which by now is broadly seen as a natural, intuitive, and potentially effective way to address decision-making in the face of uncertainties. Yet the concept of adaptive management continues to evolve, and its record of success remains limited. In this article, we present an operational framework for adaptive decision-making, and describe the challenges and opportunities in applying it to real-world problems. We discuss the key elements required for adaptive decision-making, and their integration into an iterative process that highlights and distinguishes technical and social learning. We illustrate the elements and processes of the framework with some successful on-the-ground examples of natural resource management. Finally, we address some of the difficulties in applying learning-based management, and finish with a discussion of future directions and strategic challenges.

Critical Reflection

This paper describes an operational framework for adaptive management, one that accounts for the key components needed for learning-based decision-making. In order to achieve this, this paper focused on uncertainty and using management to reduce it. Adaptive management is able to improve the understanding of the consequences of management. It gives insight in how to improve understanding based on this insight. Since the objective of the course 'Virtual organizations in a dynamic context' is to understand the relationship between organizations and the dynamic context of society, the paper's description of the operational framework of adaptive management is useful in order to understand this relationship better. It can function as a guide in order to overcome real-world problems that dynamic context of society is facing. Within the description of the operational framework there is also an explanation on how to deal with all kinds of different stakeholders. Climate change and organizational commitment are examples of real-world problems that organizations are facing according to this paper. The challenges for adaptive management provided in the paper are somewhat narrow. It would be better if the author would have given a broader overview of the challenges adaptive management is facing.