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Principle 8: Shadow spaces

Encourage shadow spaces

Relationships can provide particularly important spaces for learning and innovation when they are not bound by existing organisational structures, may not be officially sanctioned, but are still allowed to have a life of their own. This has been referred to as ‘shadow spaces’.

Shadow spaces have the potential to contribute to continuation of earlier innovations, by encouraging individuals to self-organise and learn through informal interaction. The idea of such spaces complements the principle that knowledge comes from all, and that end-user knowledge sharing is just as valuable as that between scientists and end users (see also Principle 1).

  • SharedLearningHow this principle was used in AdaptNRM

    Shadow spaces were encouraged to develop among NRMs through AdaptNRM engagement activities. The informal interactions between NRMs, and the resulting relationships, help facilitate social learning, where learning is a process that occurs when we share our experiences, ideas and environments with others.

    Module review sessions are one of AdaptNRM’s key activities, designed to gain input from NRM planners on the direction of a module’s development. However, they also provide opportunities for NRMs to have open discussions, which we tried to actively encourage. The topic of sharing a library of means-ends diagrams for a spatial prioritisation tool, MCAS-S (Multi-Criteria Analysis Shell for Spatial Decision Support), arose during the review of the Implications of Climate Change for Biodiversity module in August 2014. Several NRM groups were using MCAS-S for spatial prioritisations; some had already consulted broadly on specific criteria and priorities, whereas most were just getting started formally incorporating climate change into their spatial planning. The topic, whilst seemingly tangential and out of scope of the module review, allowed planners to find common ground and pursue linked interests. AdaptNRM encouraged and facilitated some of these conversations as shadow spaces.

    While a shared library didn’t eventuate, a workshop session at the NCCARF 2014 Climate Adaptation Conference was organised, focusing on how MCAS-S is used in NRM, with specific case study examples from Western Australia.

  • SharedLearningIdeas for how you can apply this principle

    Encouraging staff to engage with stakeholders and information providers in many informal ways, not just through specifically organised workshops or meetings, facilitates relationship building, thus creating opportunities for shadow spaces. Supporting staff to attend community events or conferences without a defined agenda for a project or their organisation is relatively rare given the need to identify specific outcomes from all expenditure. But the innovative outcomes that can arise from the informal interactions in shadow spaces may provide significant unanticipated benefits, suggesting they should be encouraged wherever possible.