The role of learning in changing forest governance: an examination of community-based forestry initiatives in the U.S.

Other Titles


The role of learning in changing forest governance by community-based forestry (CBF) initiatives in the USA is examined through two conceptual lenses – social learning and policy learning – and across operational, collective-choice, and constitutional-choice levels of forest governance. Data used for this examination were derived from two qualitative, case study-based inquiries: the Ford Foundation's Community-Based Forestry Demonstration Program and a status report on CBF developed for the U.S. Endowment for Forests and Communities. Additional information on CBF learning and governance change was gleaned from the research literature and the authors' ongoing observations and participation with CBF groups. We found that CBF groups and coalitions are engaged in a wide variety of learning strategies simultaneously, frequently blending social and policy learning in order to determine if proposed strategies worked or require changes, and if their core beliefs are being attained. Most learning tends to involve single-loop learning, where the effect and effectiveness of strategies are measured against expected outcomes; in a small number of cases, we found evidence of double-loop learning, where the assumptions about causal relationships were questioned and adapted. Triple-loop learning of CBF governing values and structures, as well as the values and structures governing U.S. forest policy as a whole, is largely absent. CBF learning primarily focuses on operational-level governance, where management plans and strategies are altered to incorporate the linked goals of sustaining healthy forests and healthy communities. A small number of CBF advocacy coalitions are engaged in policy learning and change at the collective- and constitutional-choice levels; policy changes are generally at the collective-choice level, changing rules and structures that affect operational-level governance. Given the high cost of changing collective- and constitutional-choice governance and the generally long time to achieve policy change, CBF groups and coalitions must find ways to sustain the resources and energy necessary to stay engaged to affect long-term forest governance change.

Journal / Series

Volume & Issue



Ford Foundation

Date Issued





social learning; forest policy; forest governance


Effective Date

Expiration Date




Union Local


Number of Workers

Committee Chair

Committee Co-Chair

Committee Member

Degree Discipline

Degree Name

Degree Level

Related Version

Related DOI

Related To

Related Part

Based on Related Item

Has Other Format(s)

Part of Related Item

Related To

Related Publication(s)

Link(s) to Related Publication(s)


Link(s) to Reference(s)

Previously Published As

Cheng, A.S., Danks, C. and S. Broussard Allred. 2011. The role of learning in changing forest governance: an examination of community-based forestry initiatives in the U.S. Forest Policy and Economics 13(2011): 89-96.

Government Document




Other Identifiers


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International



Accessibility Feature

Accessibility Hazard

Accessibility Summary

Link(s) to Catalog Record