Effective Adaptation involves ‘Quadruple-Loop Learning’

We have been looking at how communities develop their ability to adapt to climate change. This is mostly about learning how to learn from change and for this people mostly talk about the ‘double-loop’ learning that follows from experience. In other words, asking “How did we do” and then trying to improve based on the past events.

But that is not enough – we know the future is not going to be the same as the past, which is why we need at least ‘triple-loop learning’. Here, people ask what kind of things they might need to differently given that they know the environment will have changed – eg, see http://www.noop.nl/2011/05/triple-loop-learning.html.

But this is still not enough for climate change adaptation – which is a ‘super-wicked’ complex context – ‘quadruple-loop’ anticipatory adaptation is needed. For this, people consider possible futures and explore novel ways of working, and the capabilities they might need to develop, to achieve the necessary ‘complexity-worthiness’.This approach is being used practically by the Africa Climate Change Resilience Alliance (ACCRA).

What are these four complementary, iterative and concurrent loops?

  • Loop 1: Adapting to the realities of real-world change.
  • Loop 2: Adapting the adaptations (to be more suitably ‘stanced’ and not maladapted to ongoing change).
  • Loop 3: Adapting how to adapt the adaptations given climate change (ie, working out what one might need to do differently given future possibilities).
  • Loop 4: Adapting capabilities appropriately at all levels to achieve the things in 1, 2 and 3 (authorities, power structures, governance, skills and behaviours and so on).

The first thing to note is that this is not a sequence – Loop 1 does not necessarily happen first – it depends on the context. So how does this all work in real world practice rather than just in theory?

In Chapter 4 of our book, “Complexity Demystified – a Guide for Practitioners” we explain in detail how to use the loops to achieve effective purposeful change, and provide and in an ‘integrative’ framework, the ‘Landscape of Change’ which brings it all together.

(c) 2012. The abaci Partnership LLP

This entry was posted in Adaptation, Learning, Opportunities, Possibilities. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Effective Adaptation involves ‘Quadruple-Loop Learning’

  1. Pingback: Complexity-Worthiness in a nutshell | Harnessing Dynamic Change

  2. Pingback: Transitioning to Adaptive, Forward-looking Ways-of-Working | Harnessing Dynamic Change

  3. Pingback: Applying Complexity Thinking to the Real World | Harnessing Dynamic Change

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