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Durham University

Centre for Social Justice and Community Action

Building adaptive strategies for environmental change with rural land managers

(Rachel Pain and Geoff Whitman)

We are being funded under RELU's Living with Environmental Change Program (LWEC) to explore and promote novel approaches and partnerships for interdisciplinary research and analysis on living with environmental change in rural contexts. Traditionally, land management issues are researched - that is academics are often commissioned by government agencies to carry out a piece of research, which is then used to inform legislation or policy changes that local communities then have to implement. This approach has often failed to either tackle the root causes of land management problems or to be well thought of by local communities. One way of tackling this problem is through public participation measures, which are very much in vogue at the moment. However, there are many different approaches and levels of participation, ranging from tick box exercises through to coproduction.

Our novel approach to participation is Participatory Action Research (PAR). At the heart of PAR is the belief that research should be done with and for communities. The role of academics here is as facilitators not researchers. PAR is therefore an experimental approach very much based on coproduction - that is the collective making of knowledges and understandings. This has not been applied to this area before in the UK and so this project is experimental, working with a group of participants in Lancashire's Lune Valley on river catchment issues to critically assess the potential and barriers to using PAR for this purpose.

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