An Action Research Approach to a Wicked Situation in Coastal Management in Sri Lanka

Julia Jung
room 1
Session 6, August 27, 11:00-12:30

Accelerating anthropogenic impacts create increasing stress for coastal and marine social-ecological systems that can lead to wicked problems. Addressing these problems requires alternative approaches based on systems thinking and critical reflection, such as action research. This study used an action research approach to investigate a wicked situation in coastal management in a community in Sri Lanka that has experienced drastic environmental change during the last 20 years. Four action cycles using a combination of methods were used throughout the research process and revealed that degradation of the physical environment has also created amplifying feedback loops with negative consequences on social cohesion. Community practices to increase social cohesion were identified and shared with local decision-makers. The conceptual frameworks of cultural ecosystem services, relational values, Solastalgia and DPSIR were examined in their use as communication or analytical tools for addressing this situation. While they all have different advantages and disadvantages, using an action research approach allows a flexible integration of those frameworks. Action research is recommended as an approach for early-career ocean scientists as it can help them develop crucial personal skills and attributes necessary for working in transdisciplinary teams.