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Using research to support transformative impacts on complex, “wicked problems” with pastoral peoples in rangelands


Robin S. Reid
María E. Fernández-Giménez
Tomas Pickering
Karim-Aly S. Kassam
Apin Yasin
Lauren M. Porensky
Justin D. Derner
David Nkedianye
Chantsallkham Jamsranjav
Khishigbayar Jamiyansharav
Tungalag Ulambayar
Elisa Oteros-Rozas
Federica Ravera
Umed Bulbulshoev
Daler S. Kaziev
Corrine N. Knapp



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Pacific Northwest Research Station


Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. 4: 513-.


Pastoralists and researchers (and others) are finding new ways of working together worldwide, attempting to sustain pastoral livelihoods and rangelands in the face of rapid and profound changes driven by globalization, growing consumption, land-use change, and climate change. They are doing this partly because of a greater need to address increasing complex or “wicked” problems, but also because local pastoral voices (and sometimes science) still have little impact on decision-making in the governmental and private sectors. We describe here, using six worldwide cases, how collaborative rangelands partnerships are transforming how we learn about rangelands and pastoralists, whose knowledge gets considered, how science can support societal action, and even our fundamental model of how science gets done. Over the long-term, collaborative partnerships are transforming social-ecological systems by implementing processes like building collaborative relationships, co-production/co-generation of knowledge, integration of knowledges, social learning, capacity building, networking and implementing action. These processes are changing mental models and paradigms, creating strong and effective leaders, changing power relations, providing more robust understanding of rangeland systems, reducing polarization and supporting the implementation of new practices and policies. Collaborative partnerships have recurring challenges and much work is yet to be done. These challenges rest on the enduring complexity of social-ecological problems in rangelands. At a practical level, partnerships struggle with listening, amplifying and partnering with diverse (and sometimes marginalized) voices, the time commitment needed to make partnershipswork, the bias and naivete of scientists, the recognition that partnerships can promote negative transformations, management of power relations within the partnership, and the need to attribute impacts to partnership activities. We think that the future of this work will have more focus on systems transformations, morals and ethics, intangible and longterm impacts, critical self-assessment, paradigm shifts and mental models, and power. Overall, we conclude that these partnerships are transformative in unexpected and sometimes intangible ways. Key transformations include changing mental models and building the next generation of transformative leaders. Just as important is serendipity, where participants in partnerships take advantage of new windows of opportunity to change policy or create new governance institutions.We also conclude that collaborative partnerships are changing how we do science, creating new and transformative ways that science and society interact that could be called “transformative science with society.”


Reid, Robin S.; Fernández-Giménez, María E.; Wilmer, Hailey; Pickering, Tomas; Kassam, Karim-Aly S.; Yasin, Apin; Porensky, Lauren M.; Derner, Justin D.; Nkedianye, David; Jamsranjav, Chantsallkham; Jamiyansharav, Khishigbayar; Ulambayar, Tungalag; Oteros-Rozas, Elisa; Ravera, Federica; Bulbulshoev, Umed; Kaziev, Daler S.; Knapp, Corrine N. 2021. Using research to support transformative impacts on complex, “wicked problems” with pastoral peoples in rangelands. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. 4: 513-.


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