Managing relationships, learning and demands in protected areas : a social systems analysis.
Nkhata, Bimo Abraham.
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This thesis seeks to contribute to the improved understanding of social systems analysis in management effectiveness research on protected areas. It develops and applies propositions for incorporating the analysis of social systems into management effectiveness research. The propositions are designed as theoretical constructs which represent some aspects of social reality in protected area management. They signify an organized way of thinking about the social domain of protected area management. It is argued that an analysis of management effectiveness must recognize the need to take into account the inherent interactive nature of the connections among three variables, relationships, learning and demands. It is suggested that the three variables do not exist in isolation, but are interconnected and exert influence on each other. The interactions among the variables provide this study with a conceptual structure for analyzing the social domain of protected area management. The thesis conceives the management of relationships as a behavioral process in which protected area management agencies influence the decisions and actions of other parties, and vice versa, over a period of time in order to advance shared interests. The effectiveness of relationship management depends on integrated learning, a collective process of managing information in a timely manner so as to enhance the responsiveness of social actors involved with protected areas. Demand management is viewed as a social process in which protected area management agencies develop timely and defensible responses to current and emerging demands from stakeholders. The management of demands is expressed through relationship management and integrated learning. Important in this context is the capability of social actors to cope with complexity, change and surprises. The thesis should be seen as a theoretical premise that focuses on the learning competence of social actors by aligning and fostering their ability to respond timely to the ever-changing demands on protected areas through the effective management of relationships. It should be viewed as making a contribution to the move in protected area management towards developing learning organizations and institutions through a systems approach. This should be interpreted as enhancing learning about the human dimensions of protected area management. And more specifically, effective learning generates timely responses in the management of demands and relationships. The implications of failure to respond quickly enough are epitomized in a number of South African examples such as rivers that stop flowing and conflicts over resource use. The thesis makes a contribution to management effectiveness research by examining in some important ways why research should not be determined solely by biophysical components, but should be extended to the broader social issues that define the nature and quality of management. It is argued that a deep appreciation of management effectiveness requires an understanding of relationships, learning and demands to provide a foundation for systemic social analyses. The thesis illustrates why a behavioral approach to relationships theory provides a foundation for resilient social relationships in collaborative processes. It shows why the establishment and maintenance of an integrated learning system take place in a complex context which links elements of governance learning and management learning. It also evinces why protected area management agencies have to incorporate mental models into adaptive management of demands. These insights imply that the opportunities for effective protected area management are largely contingent on systemic insights into the underlying social structures and processes responsible for emergent problems. By exposing the insights, research on management effectiveness is poised to take new direction.
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