Abstract: Scientists and development practitioners increasingly recognise that change, instability, and uncertainty are inherent in social-ecological systems, and strongly influence human well-being. International to local development policy and practice now emphasises the importance of recognizing, protecting, and building people’s capacities to respond to inevitable change (adaptation), and to drive favourable change (innovation) in order to sustain and improve their well-being. However, few studies focus specifically on the social and gender differentiation of capacities to adapt and innovate. Tackling this knowledge gap is an imperative if we are to achieve more socially inclusive development processes, greater equitability of outcomes, and sustained improvements to human well-being. In this presentation I address this gap through an empirical examination of how gender and social differentiation shape capacities to adapt and innovate within three rural communities in Solomon Islands. I look beyond quantifiable environmental or technological assets, to examine five dimensions of capacity to adapt, and capacity to innovate; assets, flexibility, learning, social organisation, and agency. I highlight how gender and social differentiation within each dimension may be exacerbated or dampened by different development interventions and strategies. These findings provide a socially nuanced understanding of adaptive capacity and capacity to innovate, and provide insights for research seeking to understand well-being within dynamic social-ecological systems.
Bio: Dr Pip Cohen is a scientist for WorldFish, and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. Pip’s research largely focuses on understanding the influence of culture, leadership, social networks, demography, economic development, and policy on the governance of social-ecological systems. Her empirical work is focused in the least developed countries of the Pacific, in particular Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Timor-Leste. In this context her research has employed an interdisciplinary approach to critically evaluate different small-scale fisheries governance modes for ecological, food security and livelihood outcomes. Given Pip’s role in WorldFish, and their emphasis on ‘Research inDevelopment’, her research is conducted in partnership with local communities and governments, concurrent with development activities, and as a result embedded in the development context.