Learning in environmental governance: opportunities for translating theory to practice

Andrea K. Gerlak, Tanya Heikkila, Jens Newig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Environmental governance is characterized by complex dynamic issues where new knowledge is constantly emerging that can shape how we understand the system and what kinds of policies and strategies are most effective. As a result, targeted mechanisms to acquire, translate, and disseminate knowledge into new policies are critical for adaptive environmental governance. The scholarship on learning in environmental governance has exploded in the past two decades leading to new empirical and theoretical insights. However, lacking from this literature is an examination of how these insights can inform practice. Here we explore evidence from the scholarship studying learning in environmental governance that can inform practitioners who engage in and manage environmental planning and decision-making processes. Three key factors are drawn from the scholarship that may foster learning: face-to-face dialog that is open and ongoing; cross-scale linkages; and investments in institutional rules, norms, and shared strategies for intentional learning. We translate these findings into strategies for environmental governance practitioners and explore how to mitigate some of the factors that constrain learning across many governance contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)653-666
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Environmental Policy and Planning
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2 2020


  • environment
  • governance
  • Learning
  • lessons
  • policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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