Table of Contents

This page contains:
  • A glossary of all terms regularly used as part of this work on climate change and social learning.
  • A list of acronyms regularly used in CCSL work - to be found at the bottom of this page

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Action Research
Action research seeks to create participative research communities and seeks to engage those who may otherwise be ‘subjects’ of research or ‘recipients’ of interventions rather than co-researchers. It aims to place the capacity for generating and using knowledge in the hands of people who are trying to improve their own lives. Building research agendas in this way demonstrates a valuable social learning approach to framing knowledge needs. CCAFS sees social learning approaches as closely aligned to ‘participatory’ multi-directional communication and participatory action research, and the associated farmer-participatory systems that give priority to community empowerment.

Asset -based community development (ABCD)
ABCD is a “strength-based” development approach. It seeks to uncover and use the strengths within communities as a means for sustainable development. Local assets such as the skills of local residents, the power of local associations and the supportive function of local institutions are seen as the primary building blocks of sustainable community development. ABCD like social learning engages a diverse an array of relevant stakeholders

Adaptive collaborative management (ACM)
ACM is an approach that is based on action research and learning, and aims to develop people’s capacity to adapt to a changing environment.
It is an integrative approach for implementing sustainable management of natural resources, based on a main hypothesis, that is: if there is a high degree of collaboration between stakeholders combined with a high adaptiveness of management systems, the result will be a higher degree of human well-being and ecological sustainability.
[source: Adaptive collaborative management: Criteria and indicators for assessing sustainability. Pokorny,B; Cayres, G; Nunes, W; Segebart, D; Drude, R; Steinbrenner,M]

Aquatic Agricultural System
Systems in which the annual production dynamics of freshwater and/or coastal ecosystems contribute significantly to total household income.


Benefit-sharing mechanism (BSM)
The principal idea behind this concept is to share the benefits resulting from the development of the resources in order to satisfy the needs of the concerned populations. BSM in the context of social learning refers to the distribution of both monetary and non- monetary benefits generated through the practice of social learning.


Collective action
Collective action refers both to the process by which voluntary institutions are created and maintained and to the groups that decide to act together. Collective action can contribute to poverty reduction through mutual insurance, increased opportunities for income generation, and improved provision and access to public services.

Communication for development/development communication
The use of communication processes, techniques, and media to help people toward a full awareness of their situation and their options for change ... to help [them] plan actions for change and sustainable development
(Fraser and Restrepo-Estrada 1998)

Communities of Practice
A group of people who share a common interest in a particular domain or area - or a group which may be created specifically with the goal of gaining knowledge related to their field. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that the members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally. A community of practice can be viewed as a simple social system – and has been described as one of three constitutive elements of social learning systems
[Wenger, Trayner 2012]

Community-based approaches (CBA)
A community-based approach is a way of working in partnership with others in all parts of the social learning cycle. In the context of social learning, this is recognising capacities, skills and resources of all parties and supporting a community’s goal of sharing knowledge and learning.

Community-based Management
Community-based management (CBM) is a bottom up approach of organization which can be facilitated by an upper government or NGO structure but it aims for local stakeholder participation in the planning, research, development, management and policy making for a community as a whole.

Community-based Organizations
Community based organizations (CBO's) are non-profit groups that work at a local level to improve life for residents. The focus is to build equality across society in all streams - health care, environment, quality of education, access to technology, access to spaces and information for the disabled, to name but a few. The inference is that the communities represented by the CBO's are typically at a disadvantage. CBO's are typically, and almost necessarily, staffed by local members - community members who experience first-hand the needs within their neighbourhoods. Besides being connected geographically, the only link between staff members and their interests is often the desire and willingness to help. Occupational skill sets and experience are greatly diverse.
[ s%20-%20Introduction]
Community-based Seed Systems
These are community-based systems which ultimately enable farmers to get seed of the varieties they prefer. Community networks find suitable new varieties, involve farmers in selection, and produce seed commercially. They are market-oriented, and cost-effective because they involve all stakeholders' farmer groups, government and non-government research and development organisations, seed traders and entrepreneurs.

Community Seed Bank
A community seed bank is a network of seed saving and exchange, a site for exercising Seed Freedom. Seeds are collected, saved, grown out, multiplied, selected and distributed and this cycle then continues

Co-production of knowledge
Establishes the production of knowledge as being an integral process involving both scientific method and the social context. [O’Rafferty]. Social learning can be conceptualised as a process of co-producing knowledge by actors across scales and levels from both scientific and social contexts.

Collective action
Collective action refers both to the process by which voluntary institutions are created and maintained and to the groups that decide to act together. []

Commune agro-ecosystems analysis (CAEA)
CAEA is a participatory approach that enables local communities to improve decision making at the commune level.
Community-based adaptive management (CBAM)
Adaptive management can be defined as the integration of design, management and monitoring in order to learn and improve responses to management efforts. It is an on-going cycle of designing and checking a plan and then modifying management in light of the results. Community-based implies that the management is carried out by, or with a major role played by the community, local stakeholders, relevant user groups, and also the locally and nationally relevant institutions and private interests. A collaborative approach in the management process has been found to advance social learning []
CBAM here, also referred to as “learning-by-doing”

Community-based participatory research (CBPR)
A partnership approach to research that equitably involves, for example, community members, organizational representatives, and researchers in all aspects of the research process and in which all partners contribute expertise and share decision making and ownership. The aim of CBPR is to increase knowledge and understanding of a given phenomenon and integrate the knowledge gained with interventions and policy and social change to improve the health and quality of life of community members. [Wikipedia]. CBBR is consistent with the principles of social learning.

Cross scalar processes

Cross stakeholder processes


Direct-Seeded Rice
Direct seeded rice is a resource conserving technology for growing rice - dry primed seed is planted into a dry seedbed using a seed-cum-fertilizer drill.


Endogenous Social Learning
Endogenous social learning is social learning that is firmly rooted in the political, economic and social frameworks of the locality or region. It would be social learning that brought together stakeholders that represented not just a socially differentiated community of actors but a set of actors that acknowledged the governance, traditions and local authorities of the region as well as an understanding of the local organisations and trade federations.


Farmer Field School
Participatory platforms for improving decision-making capacity and stimulating local innovation for sustainable agriculture. FFS offer community-based, non-formal education to groups of 20–25 farmers. Discovery-based learning is related to agro-ecological principles in a participatory learning process throughout a crop cycle. The focus is on a) identifying concrete solutions for local problems, b) increasing the capacity of individuals and local groups for critical analysis and decision-making and c) stimulate local innovation and emphasise principles and processes rather than recipes or technology packages
[Braun, Thiele, Fernández, 2000]

Focus Group Discussions
The gathering together of a group to discuss a specific topic of interest. The group of participants is guided by a moderator / facilitator who introduces topics for discussion and helps the group to participate in a lively and natural discussion amongst themselves.

Farmer Organisations
Farmer Organisations can be grouped into two types: one is the community-based and resource-orientated organization; the other is the commodity-based and market-orientated organization.
Community-Based, Resource-Orientated Farmer Organizations. This type could be a village-level cooperative or association dealing with inputs needed by the members, the resource owners, to enhance the productivity of their businesses based on land, water, or animals. These organizations are generally small, have well-defined geographical areas, and are predominantly concerned about inputs. However, the client group is highly diversified in terms of crops and commodities.
Commodity-Based, Market-Orientated Farmer Organizations. These organizations specialize in a single commodity and opt for value-added products which have expanded markets. They are designated as output-dominated organizations. Not specific to any single community, they can obtain members from among the regional growers of that commodity who are interested in investing some share capital to acquire the most recent processing technology and professional manpower.

Farmer Participatory Research (FPR)
An approach, which involves encouraging farmers to engage in experiments in their own fields so that they can learn, adopt new technologies and spread them to other farmers. With the scientist acting as facilitator, farmers and scientists closely work together from initial design of the research project to data gathering, analysis, final conclusions, and follow-up actions. This step, sometimes known as “innovation evaluation” is essential for communication as well as for initiating diffusion. The main advantage of this approach is that farmers “learn by doing” and decision rules are modified on the basis of direct experience. To shape learning, interpretations of experience must provide information about what happened, why it happened and whether what happened was satisfactory or unsatisfactory. New information, technologies and concepts may be better communicated to farmers through the FPR approach


Gender, Agriculture, and Assets Project
A project led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) to better understand gender and asset dynamics in agricultural development programs.

Global Initiative on Late Blight
The Global Initiative on Late Blight (GILB) is a worldwide concerted response to potato late blight, the most devastating disease that threatens potato crops worldwide. GILB is a network of researchers, technology developers and agricultural knowledge agents that serves as a platform to exchange ideas and opinions, and facilitates communication and access to information. Although GILB incorporates partners worldwide, its primary aim is to improve management of late blight in developing countries.

Green Revolution
The establishing an international agricultural research system to help transfer and adapt scientific advances to the conditions in developing countries. The first investments were in research on rice and wheat, two of the most important food crops for developing countries. The breeding of improved varieties, combined with the expanded use of fertilizers, other chemical inputs, and irrigation, led to dramatic yield increases in Asia and Latin America, beginning in the late 1960s. In 1968, U.S.Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator William S. Gaud coined the term “Green Revolution” to describe this phenomenal growth in agriculture.



Information intermediary/infomediary
Enables access to information from multiple sources (Fisher 2011)

Integrated Pest Management
An environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment. The IPM approach can be applied to both agricultural and non-agricultural settings, such as the home, garden, and workplace. IPM takes advantage of all appropriate pest management options including, but not limited to, the judicious use of pesticides. In contrast, organic food production applies many of the same concepts as IPM but limits the use of pesticides to those that are produced from natural sources, as opposed to synthetic chemicals.

Institutional Learning and Change
An initiative of the CGIAR that was created in 2003 during an impact assessment meeting hosted by the International Food and Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington DC. At the meeting, participants advocated shifting project monitoring and evaluation approaches:
• from being product-focused to being focused on people and institutions
• from using external expert reviews to conducting internal critical self-reflection
• from documenting successes to learning from failures

International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development
An international effort initiated by the World Bank that evaluated the relevance, quality and effectiveness of agricultural knowledge, science, and technology (AKST), and the effectiveness of public and private sector policies and institutional arrangements.

Innovation approach
Approaches that examine, often with the use of new technology, how research is conducted and knowledge is shared, to address the disconnect between research and e.g. farmers. Examples could include the use of mobile phone technologies, adoption of new farming practices or the use of new vaccines to prevent disease.
Innovation broker
Influencing the wider context to reduce transaction costs and facilitate innovation (Fisher 2011)

Innovation platforms
A multi-stakeholder initiative, it is a mechanism for enhancing innovation. It is the “real world” implementation of a concept, and facilitates dialogue between all stakeholders.



Knowledge Broker
A Knowledge Broker is an intermediary (an organization or a person), that aims to develop relationships and networks with, among, and between producers and users of knowledge by providing linkages, knowledge sources, and in some cases knowledge itself, (e.g. technical know-how, market insights, research evidence) to organizations in its network. A key feature of a KB is the facilitation of knowledge exchange or sharing between and among various stakeholders, including researchers, practitioners, and policy makers (Source: Wikipedia)
A KB facilitates processes of learning whereby people are connected with tacit or explicit knowledge sources that will help them to resolve work-related challenges. To make this happen, KBs engage in a set of relational, technical, and analytical activities that help Communities of Practice (CoPs) to develop and operate, exchanges among people with similar concerns and interests, and help groups and individuals to create, explore, and apply knowledge in their practice
[Conklin, Lusk, Harris, Stolee]
Knowledge intermediary/knowledge translator
Helping people make sense of and apply information (Fisher 2011)

Knowledge-to-action linkages
Learning alliance process undertaken jointly by research organizations, donor and development agencies, policymakers and private businesses that engage multiple stakeholders in processes of innovation. It is the approach/method of bringing together multiple stakeholders at local, regional and global level – e.g. farmers’ organisations, community groups, development partners, scientists, researchers policymakers, civil society, government and the private sector - to share knowledge that could influence policy and action. The success of this approach depends on good facilitation, communication and capacity development.

Knowledge Sharing
Knowledge Sharing is an activity through which knowledge (i.e., information, skills, or expertise) is exchanged among people, friends, families, communities, or organizations (Wikipedia). Since social learning fosters engagement and learning across a wide range of stakeholders it is recognised as a key tool for knowledge sharing.


Landscapes approach
An approach which provides a broad framework that can fully integrate agriculture, forestry and other land uses into a sustainable development agenda. It seeks to assess performance against broader development goals such as poverty eradication, green growth, food security and nutrition, mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, energy efficient cities, and sustainable land use and farm practices [source:

Learning alliance
Process undertaken jointly by research organizations, donor and development agencies, policymakers and private businesses that engage multiple stakeholders in processes of innovation

A technique which develops the skills and learning for those directly involved in a project while - through demonstration - engages other stakeholders who are directly involved in the project.

Local agricultural research committees (Spanish acronym: CIAL)
Similar to FFS - also a participatory platform for improving decision-making capacity and stimulating local innovation for sustainable agriculture. CIALs are a permanent agricultural research service staffed by a team of four or more volunteer farmers elected by the community. The committees create a link between local and formal research. Although initiated for different reasons than FFS, their overall objectives around capacity building and innovation.

Looped Learning
Single/double/triple loop learning A series of learning steps which is implicit in effective social learning.
Single loop - receipt of information. The result is fixing errors from routines.
Double loop - reflecting on what activities will be more effective. The result is correcting errors by adjusting values and policies.
Triple loop – behaviour change as a result of that reflection by multiple stakeholders. The result is correcting errors by designing governance norms and protocols.

Linear communication strategies
The sending of messages or information to targeted audiences which does not look for any engagement or response.


Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCA)
A decision-making tool developed for complex problems. In a situation where multiple criteria are involved confusion can arise if a logical, well-structured decision-making process is not followed. Another difficulty in decision making is that reaching a general consensus in a multidisciplinary team can be very difficult to achieve. By using MCA the members don't have to agree on the relative importance of the Criteria or the rankings of the alternatives. Each member enters his or her own judgements, and makes a distinct, identifiable contribution to a jointly reached conclusion.




Participatory communication strategies
In contrast with Linear communication strategies, an approach which is designed to mobilise and engage people in collective action.

Participatory market chain approach (PMCA)
This manual describes the Participatory Market Chain Approach (PMCA), a new R&D method designed to stimulate innovation along market chains by enhancing stakeholder collaboration and trust. This method grew out of a joint effort made by different R&D organizations and projects (see list on the inside of the back cover), with the aim of finding new ways of intervening in market chains and improving poor farmers’ livelihoods.

Participatory plant breeding
The development of a plant breeding program in collaboration between breeders and farmers, marketers, processors, consumers, and policy makers (food security, health and nutrition, employment). It involves close farmer-researcher collaboration to bring about plant genetic improvement within a species. Developing a clear vision together with the stakeholders in the breeding process is important. One of a number of initiatives that demonstrates elements of – but does not define - social learning



Rapid rural appraisal (RRA)
Rapid Rural Appraisal consists of a series of techniques for "quick and dirty" research that are claimed to generate results of less apparent precision, but greater evidential value, than classic quantitative survey techniques. The method does not need to be exclusively rural nor rapid, but it is economical of the researcher's time. It is essentially extractive as a process: the agenda is still that of the outside researcher.


Shared/dialogical approaches to knowledge production
A process which encourages discussion among various voices within a community. As a result of iterative loops of action and reflection, Shared knowledge, awareness, and skills can be learned and acted upon by the multiple participants. This results in conditions for not only the sharing of existing knowledge, but co -producing (between different actors) new knowledge that draws from a breadth of understanding of development challenges.

Social Differentiation
The dictionary definition of social differentiation is “the distinction made between social groups and persons on the basis of biological, physiological and socio cultural factors as sex, age, race, nationality etc. It is about recognising that any community is made up of different groups of people who represent both collective and individual interests. In the last few months, a more detailed exploration on social differentiation, the implications for CGIAR projects and case studies with a strong focus on social differentiation has been started. This will help to underpin the subsequent work of this change area.

Social Learning
“Social learning approaches help facilitate knowledge sharing, joint learning and co-creation experiences between particular stakeholders around a shared purpose taking learning and behaviour change beyond the individual to networks and systems. Through a facilitated iterative process of working together, in interactive dialogue, exchange, learning, action and reflection and on-going partnership new shared ways of knowing emerge that lead to changes in practice.
The value added for the CGIAR of the social learning approach is that it provides a way to address complex socio-ecological problems by integrating diverse knowledges and value systems at many different levels and through different learning cycles. Social learning engages relevant stakeholders in co-framing challenges at community, regional, national and global scales with the aim of mobilising technical, institutional and social knowledge to unlock the potential that can accelerate change. Social learning is step change because it is more than just a process of inclusivity, it is a continuous iterative process of co-learning.
As such social learning is therefore:
  • Purposeful
  • Involving multiple knowledges to collective reflection and collective action
  • Learning-focused
  • Iterative
  • Adaptive
  • Context-specific
  • Transformative, often beyond the individuals involved in it

Social network analysis
The methodical analysis of social networks and is used to visualise responsibilities, interests and partnerships. It views social relationships in terms of network theory, consisting of nodes (representing individual actors within the network) and ties (which represent relationships between the individuals). These networks are often depicted in a social network diagram, where nodes are represented as points and ties are represented as lines (source: Wikipedia). SNA was identified at the CCAFS-ILRI Workshop on Communications and Social Learning in Climate Change as an activity for documenting the learning process.

Stakeholder participation
Stakeholder participation a process whereby individuals, groups, and/or organisations choose to take an active role in decision making processes that affect them. (Reed et al 2010)

Strength-based development approach
An approach which focuses on the strengths in societies and builds on the capacities that exist, empowering people for their own development from the inside out (Helfgott 2008).


"Sense-making practice that goes beyond the literal translation of language, although this remains fundamental, to cover the expression of ideas and meanings, formed in one context, and received and interpreted, in very different ones" - source:

For the purposes of the CCSL project,time scales refers here to the different perceptions that people have about timescales when thinking about the kind of information information/knowledge/ or research needs that they have. At community level those dealing with the effects of climate change – either adapting to a volatile and unpredictable climate patterns or mitigating behaviour in response to perceived climate risks – need to share knowledge and use evidence from research that addresses their immediate problems. The global scientific community currently working on climate change issues tend to be researching the science of climate change over the next 10-50 years rather than addressing smaller scale, immediate solutions at community level.







List of acronyms

Note that CGIAR is not (any longer) an acronym but a name brand

ACIAR: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research
CARIAA: Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia
CBA: Community-based approaches
CBM: Community-based management
CCAFS: Climate change, agriculture and food security (CGIAR research program)
CCSL: Climate change and social learning
CIAT: International Center for Tropical Agriculture
CIFOR: Center for International Forestry Research
CIMMYT: International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center
CIP: International Potato Center
CoP: Community of practice
CRP: CGIAR Research program
CSIRO: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
FSIFS: Food System Innovation for Food Security
ICARDA: International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas
ICRAF: World Agroforestry Centre
ICRISAT: International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics

IDO: Intermediary development outcome
IDRC: International Development Research Centre (Canada)
IFPRI: International Food Policy Research Institute
IIED: International Institute for Environment and Development
IITA: International Institute of Tropical Agriculture
ILRI: International Livestock Research Institute
IRRI: International Rice Research Institute
IWMI: International Water Management Institute
KM: Knowledge management
PES: Payment for ecosystem services
PLA: Participatory learning for action
PVS: Participatory varietal selection
RRA: Rapid rural appraisal
SL: Social learning
SLO: System level outcome
ToC: Theory of change
WARDA: Africa Rice