The International Handbook of Social Impact Assessment
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The International Handbook of Social Impact Assessment

Conceptual and Methodological Advances

Edited by Henk A. Becker and Frank Vanclay

This important Handbook presents an indispensable overview of the range of new methods and of the conceptual advances in Social Impact Assessment (SIA). Recent increased attention to social considerations has led to substantial development in the techniques useful to, and the thinking in, SIA. A distinguished group of contributors provides an up-to-date and comprehensive account of the cutting-edge in SIA development.
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Chapter 4: Learning from Participatory Land Management

Neil Powell and Janice Jiggins


Neil Powell and Janice Jiggins Introduction This chapter considers the perspective of development professionals faced with complex situations that are regarded by one or other stakeholder as problematic. They are problematic because they are complex. Complex problem situations require new approaches to the assessment of risk impacts and their management (Dorner, 1997). Such situations are characterized by irreducible uncertainty, that is, uncertainty concerning possible risk and harm which cannot be removed by more, or better, information. Two dimensions of these new approaches that are emerging are addressed here. First, complex problem situations typically present themselves as overdetermined problems. Overdetermined problems are distinguished from normal hazards and risks – that is, where one thing causes another such that there is an explanatory relationship between cause and effect. Overdetermined problems are characterized by non-linear relationships. An actual cause is causative, but not explanatory: if one cause does not occur, another will. The appropriate level of explanation moves from the microscopic to the macroscopic, from the particular to the systemic. The second dimension of complex problem situations brings into play concepts of moral reasoning as a frame for deliberating contested versions of the public good in conditions of irreducible uncertainty. These two dimensions together challenge risk assessment professions to reconsider definitions of resilience. Measuring resilience in terms of capacity to learn may be the most appropriate measure in situations of uncertainty. Through an illustrative case from the Nyae Nyae, a region of Namibia, we critically reflect upon impact assessment in conditions...

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