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124 Chapter 6 MAKING KNOWLEDGE IN CIVIC ECOLOGY PRACTICES A Community Garden Case Study Philip Silva and Rosalba Lopez Ramirez Civic ecology practices often emerge in places struggling with deeply ingrained social, economic, and environmental challenges. Practitioners of civic ecology come together to foster hope and make meaningful and measurable changes in their communities. To make such changes, acting on knowledge that is created through their practice—by taking measurements, by observing, by sharing resources and ideas with peers, and by other means—is critical. In this chapter, we explore how members of Kelly Street Garden, a community garden in the South Bronx in New York City, strive to produce, manage, and apply new knowledge in their work together, through measuring outcomes and by other means that are often overlooked in research on participatory forms of environmental management.We begin with an overview of the conceptual literature on knowledge making in practice and the social constructionist worldview that frame our insights.We continue with a short history of the social, economic, and environmental stresses that have characterized the South Bronx for the past fifty years and then focus on Kelly Street Community Garden and its various knowledge management practices. Finally, we highlight three insights into how knowledge management can strengthen a civic ecology practice, which we hope will prove useful to other civic ecology practitioners eager to be more reflexive about their work. CHAPTER 6 125 Knowledge Making Urban planners and natural-resource managers sometimes use monitoring and data collection and analysis to adaptively improve routine practices in complex and emergent social-ecological systems. Efforts by professionals to strengthen their work through knowledge management also have been seen in smaller, mostly volunteer-led urban environmental stewardship initiatives, or civic ecology practices (Krasny and Tidball 2015; Silva and Krasny 2014).Although a comprehensive review of this cyclical approach to creating, testing, and refining useful knowledge is beyond the scope of this chapter, we offer a brief introduction to the literature to ground our observations from one community garden in the South Bronx within these broader academic traditions. “Organizational learning involves the detection and correction of error,”Argyris and Schön (1978, 2) wrote in their widely cited introduction to multiple-loop learning in organizations. Single-loop learning refers to changes in day-to-day practice that result from a critical appraisal of outcomes based on data derived from sustained outcomes monitoring. Double-loop learning deals with deeper modifications to“an organization’s underlying norms, policies, and objectives”(3), which also can result from monitoring and analysis. These informational feedback loops function like a thermostat adjusting the temperature of a building in response to unpredictable weather patterns—they allow an organization to adapt to complex circumstances beyond its control and gradually strengthen its practices over time. This concept of adaptive change based on perpetual knowledge-making-inaction found a welcome audience in the field of environmental management beginning in the 1970s. Around this time, the prevailing top-down, one-size-fitsall “command and control” approach to management proved increasingly incapable of dealing with the complexities and uncertainties of human-dominated ecosystems (Cundill and Rodela 2012). Walters and Holling (1990) dubbed the new approach “learning by doing,” with scientists doing most of the “learning” through carefully designed and controlled field experiments (Layzer 2008). More recently, scholars have featured participatory forms of deliberation and knowledge creation with a variety of stakeholders—property owners, community members, and experts of all stripes—working together under the banner of adaptive collaborative management (Armitage et al. 2008; Charles 2008). Stakeholders in these cases work with scientists to develop knowledge about what works and what doesn’t work for managing a resource over time, and they learn how to work together more inclusively and effectively to ensure better management outcomes (Cundill and Rodela 2012). 126 KNOWLEDGE BUILDING Most civic ecology practices find themselves in similar circumstances regarding the complexity of social-ecological systems and the need for adaptive knowledge-making processes.What was right yesterday may be wrong tomorrow (Nadasdy 2007), both in terms of which tomatoes grow best in the shady corners of a community garden and which community organizing practices bring the greatest number of volunteers out to turn the compost and weed the flower beds. To that end, civic ecology practices resemble “knowledge-intensive firms” (Starbuck 1992; Kärreman 2008; Blackler 1995), hungry for useful insights into the latest problem or puzzle that emerges from day-to-day practice. Practitioners are not limited to formal scientific...


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