Navigating Complex Trade-offs in Conservation and Development: An Integrative Framework

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Association for Interdisciplinary Studies


We present a framework that makes space for multiple perspectives and ways of thinking about complex trade-off problems in conservation and development.  At the core of the framework are three “integrative lenses” designed to facilitate lines of inquiry according to three unique ways of perceiving complexity.  The aim of the framework is not to produce a unified theory or a model that justifies one choice over another to all audiences; rather, its purpose is to yield a more integrative and context-sensitive set of problem definitions that can open the way to a variety of pathways for action and research. The approach we present is particularly relevant in the context of highly complex problems - those involving complicated and uncertain dynamics, a multiplicity of values, a multiplicity of perspective, and the exercise of multiple forms of power (incuding the power to frame the problem).  We argue that setting aside the urge for synthesis - and therby preserving enough of the comlexity of the problem - can serve as a starting point for fertile and productive engagements between researchers working across disciplines, and between researchers and practitioners.



Interdisciplinary research, Collaboration, Win-win solutions, Trade-offs, Synthesis, Complexity framework, Integrative, Lenses, Conservation and development, Sustainability


Hirsch, Paul D., and J. Peter Brosius. "Navigating Complex Trade-Offs in Conservation and Development: An Integrative Framework." Issues in Interdisciplinary Studies 31 (2013): 99-122.