Social learning is often treated as an intervention, a designed process facilitated or even initiated by a third party. Here the authors investigated how a social learning process emerged spontaneously from inside Kristianstad, one of the most flood-prone municipalities in Sweden.

Twenty key persons were interviewed over eight years, many of them several times, to assess the process. A small action-oriented group of technical professionals perceived the flood risk and were key drivers providing strategic innovative capacity. The authors identified the process attributes that fostered the learning, the knowledge generated and other learning outcomes adapting a model by Schusler et al. (2003).

Despite some elements of double loop learning, this process was not able to change the prevailing stationary principle/paradigm, feeling safe behind the embankments and continuing building on low lying land.

The authors argue that building resilience and adaptive capacity would require a mind shift to a paradigm of flood proofing/living with floods and preparing for the unexpected, acknowledging that water cannot be controlled at a certain level. They conclude that knowledge development is inhibited by the Swedish decentralization approach and call for a multilevel learning strategy including learning from international experience and emphasising more active coordination at the national level.

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