Sustainability in practice: Situated learning and knowledge for the evolving eco-economy

Terry Marsden, Alex Franklin, Julie Newton, Jennie Middleton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This paper argues that there is a need to move beyond an abstract discussion of skills and universally applicable skills sets when considering the development of sustainable communities and, more specifically, the eco-economy. The analysis suggests that the current skills and knowledge debate needs to be more closely related to both the process of creating sustainable communities, and the everyday lives of people in place. Skills and knowledge cannot be un-problematically imported from elsewhere through formal education channels alone. The transfer of skills and knowledge is also more dependent on relational and spatially embedded 'learning by doing' and 'learning by seeing'. These provide important channels for developing meaning and personal value which cannot be easily separated from the actual involvement in a sustainability initiative. Equally important is the recognition of the heterogeneity within communities where sustainability is prioritised differently by different people. Policies to promote sustainable communities consequently need to acknowledge how skills are a product of social and spatial relations, and how these interconnect with the multiple, relational and embedded nature of the evolving eco-economy. Incorporating a 'situated learning' approach offers a creative way of reviewing the role of skills and knowledge for sustainable community on two counts. Not only does it acknowledge the role of the individual learner, it also recognises the importance of the dynamic social context in which learning takes place.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-562
Number of pages22
JournalTown Planning Review
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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