Sustainability Science

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 1091–1103 | Cite as

Participatory evaluation for adaptive co-management of social–ecological systems: a transdisciplinary research approach

  • Micaela TrimbleEmail author
  • Ryan Plummer
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Sustainability Transitions, Management, and Governance


Within the adaptive co-management field, evaluation has been receiving increased attention over the last 10 years. Although monitoring and evaluation are integral components of adaptive co-management, they are sometimes weakly incorporated. Participatory evaluation could play a role in embedding monitoring and evaluation more strongly, but there is very little empirical research about its outcomes and implications for adaptive co-management. Small-scale fisheries in Uruguay were used as case study as they are going through a governance transition; local multistakeholder councils have been formed to look for solutions to fishery-related problems in a collective manner. In one of these councils, we facilitated a participatory evaluation process with involvement of the four stakeholder groups (fishers, fisheries agency, coast guard and local governments). The objective was to investigate the potential of participatory evaluation for enhancing the two main pillars of adaptive co-management: collaboration and learning. Findings from interviews with workshop participants show that cooperation and communication among stakeholders were enhanced. However, trust only increased between some stakeholders, and existing conflicts were not resolved. The evaluation workshops became a learning space and stakeholders improved their skills to participate and interact with different actors. An important outcome was a series of operational agreements for the council, to overcome the weaknesses and challenges that the council was facing. Learning is crucial in the initial stage of an adaptive co-management process (and throughout it). The implications of the study are discussed in light of the scholarship on adaptive co-management, transdisciplinary research and sustainability science.


Governance Participatory monitoring Co-management Collaboration Evaluation Fisheries 



The first phase of this research was supported by the International Development Research Center—Canada–Latin America and the Caribbean Research Exchanges (IDRC-LACREG). The second phase was supported by the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC)—Brock University through a Postdoctoral fellowship in Sustainability Science to the first author. The support from the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES), Ministry of Higher Education of Brazil, through a postdoctoral fellowship to Trimble is also acknowledged. Fikret Berkes and Derek Johnson provided valuable insights during the discussion of the evaluation framework for adaptive co-management. The authors are also grateful with Marila Lázaro, Patricia Iribarne and Karina Dracott for their assistance during the participatory evaluation workshops. Ethics clearance for the project was granted by the Research Ethics Boards of Brock University and the University of Manitoba. The reviewers and the editor provided important contributions to improve an earlier version of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Sustainability Research CentreBrock UniversitySaint CatharinesCanada
  2. 2.Center for Marine StudiesFederal University of ParanaPontal do ParanáBrazil
  3. 3.South American Institute for Resilience and Sustainability Studies (SARAS), Los Teros esq. CardenalesBella VistaUruguay

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