Learning in participatory environmental governance – its antecedents and effects. Findings from a case survey meta-analysis
Theory on participatory and collaborative governance maintains that learning is essential to achieve good environmental outcomes. Empirical research has mostly produced individual case studies, and reliable evidence on both antecedents and environmental outcomes of learning remains sparse. Given conceptual ambiguities in the literature, we define governance-related learning in a threefold way: learning as deliberation; as knowledge- and capacity-building; and as informing environmental outputs. We develop nine propositions that explain learning through factors characterizing governance process and context, and three propositions explaining environmental outcomes of learning. We test these propositions drawing on the ‘SCAPE’ database of 307 published case studies of environmental decision-making, using multiple regression models. Results show that learning in all three modes is explained to some extent by a combination of process- and context-related factors. Most factors matter for learning, but with stark differences across the three modes of learning, thus demonstrating the relevance of this differentiated approach. Learning modes build on one another: Deliberation is seen to explain both capacity building and informed outputs, while informed outputs are also explained by capacity building. Contrary to our expectations, none of the learning variables was found to significantly affect environmental outcomes when considered alongside the process- and context-related variables.