Knowledge Mobilization: Local Community Engagement, Sustainability, and Adaptive Governance
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The thesis is devoted to studying ecomuseums’ role in advancing sustainability practices in communities, as well as the role of communities and ecomuseums in gathering and preserving knowledge about local heritage. The value proposition of the research is to recognize the ecomuseums’ social, cultural, and economic potential in Saskatchewan, as well as propose policy recommendations to improve their role for the provincial development. As partnerships formed by communities, academic institutions, and ecomuseums influence and facilitate local decision-making, it is also essential to focus on the practices of adaptive governance to implement sustainability initiatives and contribute to local knowledge mobilization. The key research question considers if and how community social learning can be advanced through ecomuseums within the system of adaptive governance. This project offers several key contributions to both the literature and society by using a community-based approach that addresses major aspects of heritage-based community development: How to facilitate ecomuseums as bridging organizations advancing sustainability, including if and how ecomuseums from the Ecomuseum Network in Saskatchewan contribute to sustainability and social learning. My general objective is to examine people’s perceptions about social learning processes and provide suggestions to the local ecomuseums, community members, and local government about policies and practices that can advance these processes and systems of adaptive governance involving the ecomuseums. Using the methods of community-based participatory research (semi-structured in-depth interviews, document analysis, observation) the proposed thesis identifies people’s perceptions about social learning and knowledge mobilization and the potential of the ecomuseums to advance adaptive governance. The conducted interviews and document analysis have enabled me to study sustainability initiatives, as well as realize the role of ecomuseums and communities in preserving local heritage and disseminating knowledge about it. Moreover, relationships with local schools and academic institutions contribute to knowledge mobilization. Analyzing community participation in decision-making has been beneficial to realize the importance of human resources and government support to sustain programs. Based on the constructivist paradigm, I focused on community-based participatory research, where the connection between social participation and knowledge generation is rarely examined. That is why exploring how knowledge production and mobilization transforms into community-driven social learning seems topical. Furthermore, this study of knowledge is essential for capturing the constructivist posture, as it is value-driven and generated through people’s on-going interaction. Participating ecomuseums included the White Butte Ecomuseum, Civic Museum of Regina, Calling Lakes Ecomuseum, North Central Ecomuseum, and Prairie Wind and Silver Sage Ecomuseum. I conducted 10 interviews: 6 with board and community members from the ecomuseums and 4 with public servants and policy analysts at the Ministry of Agriculture to gather their perceptions about sustainability and adaptive governance. I identified practices that can advance the development of the local adaptive governance system, and acquired perceptions about sustainability initiatives and social learning as they relate to adaptive governance, social development, environmental protection, and cultural heritage. Based on the findings, I propose formalized educational strategies to facilitate more active knowledge mobilization and social learning. As the participants stressed the importance of social media, the communities’ representation and active participation, I also recommend a communication strategy to facilitate governance and foster community engagement, public dialogue, face-to-face meetings, and brand and image campaigns to enhance the ecomuseums’ credibility. To improve the adaptive governance, it seemed essential to develop value-based strategies supporting the UN goals of sustainable development, as well as partnerships, communication and educational opportunities for the communities.