Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 477–487 | Cite as

Social learning as an adaptive measure to prepare for climate change impacts on water provision in Peru

  • Abby LindsayEmail author


This article examines the conditions under which social learning occurs and leads to adaptive measures through two empirical examples of Peruvian cities that invested in watershed protection for their urban water supplies. Social learning is an increasingly popular approach aimed at achieving socio-ecological resiliency through multi-stakeholder collaborative governance processes. Social learning is a convergence in knowledge that occurs through dialog and deliberation. Yet, assumptions that social learning will necessarily lead to more environmentally sustainable and resilient practices may be overly optimistic, especially as they rarely consider the political and organizational dimensions of decision making. This study analyzes two seemingly similar case studies of multi-stakeholder water management in Peru that resulted in watershed protection programs—a novelty in Peru that will help ensure future water supplies. Despite similar programs adopted, though, the social interactions were markedly different. Social learning occurred in Moyobamba, where the multi-stakeholder platform was characterized by trust, flexibility, and sustainability. In Cusco, however, stakeholders reached an agreement on projects for watershed protection, but the process exhibited little evidence of social learning, trust, or flexibility. In this article, I use process tracing to analyze if and how social learning occurred in each case. Then, I identify factors that contributed to social learning, including diverse participation, open communication, multiple sources of knowledge, extended engagement, unbiased facilitation, and an opportunity to influence outcomes.


Water Social learning Adaptive capacity Peru Multi-stakeholder platform Ecosystem services 



This work was supported by the American University Graduate Research Fellowship, American University School of International Service Summer Research Awards, and Tinker Field Research Grant. Thanks to interview participants and to anonymous reviewers.

The interview protocol for human subjects research was reviewed and approved by American University’s review board.


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© AESS 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of International ServiceAmerican UniversityWashingtonUSA

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