Mainstreaming nature-based solutions: What role do Communities of Practice play in delivering a paradigm shift?

Phoebe King, Julia Martin-Ortega, Jennifer Armstrong, Marie Ferré, Rosalind H. Bark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


As the urgency to adapt to climate change intensifies, nature-based solutions (NBS) are receiving increasing attention. To mainstream NBS, a fundamental shift in environmental management is required. This study evaluates the role that Communities of Practice (CoP) can play as platforms to foster social learning to drive such a paradigm shift. A Natural Flood Management (NFM) CoP in Yorkshire, UK, was used as a case study. A unique research design combined opportunistic data collected prior to the inception of the CoP and purposive data collected during and after its formation. Opportunistic data captured information from stakeholders regarding NFM engagement and challenges around its instalment and delivery. Purposive data was used to examine the ability of a CoP to foster social learning, overcome the challenges identified prior to its establishment and evaluate the extent to which a CoP contributes to inducing a NBS paradigm shift, using a multi-loop social learning framework. Results demonstrate that the CoP was effective in delivering social learning and improving NFM instalment and delivery. While most evidence of social learning point to incremental rather than transformational changes, it did reveal abundant questioning of the current framing of flood management. Furthermore, the CoP seems to have encouraged some participants to re-think the current governance structures for NFM and the boundaries of current actor networks, raising promise that, if sustained in the longer term, the CoP could induce a paradigm shift. Further research should conduct longitudinal studies to examine the CoP’s development overtime and its potential for overcoming current constraints.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-63
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science & Policy
Early online date17 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Flood risk management
  • Social learning
  • Triple-loop learning framework

Cite this