Political economics, collective action and wicked socio-ecological problems: A practice story from the field

Lisa B. Adams, Theodore R. Alter, Margot W. Parkes, Michael Reid, Andrew P. Woolnough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Empowering integrative, sustainable and equitable approaches to wicked socio-ecological problems requires multiple disciplines and ways of knowing. Following calls for greater attention to political economics in this transdisciplinary work, we offer a practitioner perspective on political economy and collective action and their influences on our community engagement practice and public policy. Our perspective is grounded in a pervasive wicked problem in Australia, invasive rabbits, and the emergence of the Victorian Rabbit Action Network. The network grew out of a publicly funded research project to support communityled action in rabbit management. Victorian residents and workers affected by rabbits – public and private land managers, scientists, government officers and others – were invited to engage in a participatory planning process to generate sustainable strategies to address the rabbit problem. Each stage in the process, which involved interviews, a workshop and consultations, was designed to nurture the critical enquiry, listening and learning skills of participants, advance understandings of the problem from multiple perspectives, generate collective options to guide decision-making, and encourage community-led collective action. We reflect on our understanding of these processes using the language and lens of political economics and, in particular, the context of democratic professionalism. In so doing, we define terms and refer to information resources that have enabled us to bring a practical working knowledge of political economics to our professional practice. Our intent is to motivate academics, community members, government officials and scientists alike to draw on their knowledge and field experiences and to share practice stories through the lens of political economics and collective action. This is an opportunity to engage each other in the small ‘p’ politics of how we understand and act on wicked problems, to negotiate and connect across disciplines, practical experiences and human difference, so that people may work more creatively and effectively together to address the challenging issues of our time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6342
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 17 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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