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									  Developing a theory of transformation to support decision-making in primary
                             industries in Australia

 Sarah Park, Mendham Emily, Nadine Marshall, Emma Jakku, Anne-Maree Dowd, Mark
                                    Howden

Many primary industries in Australia are undergoing fundamental changes in response to
a variety of drivers, including climate change. We explore whether elements of existing
theory can be synthesized to improve understanding of the incremental and
transformational adaptation processes occurring, with the aim of enhancing the capacity
of decision-makers to take more informed and effective response actions.

From a review of literature relating to theories of transformation (and transition) in
agricultural and land-use research and application, two particular concepts were identified
as potentially useful in understanding the process of fundamental change undertaken by
primary industry stakeholders in response to climate change. One of these is the theory of
transitions as developed within resilience thinking. This theory conceptualises transitions
as a process of societal change that occurs through a cycle of four clusters of activities. The
other is an adaptation science and management framework that characterises the issue as
one of managing vulnerability and building adaptive capacity. The framework consists of
an assembly of four key questions used to understand the process of adaptation. These
questions examine who or what adapts, what they adapt to and why, what impacts the
result, and how well they adapt.

We combine these two concepts to provide a priori a theory of the dynamics of
transformative change that can be used collaboratively with primary industry stakeholders
to understand transformative processes and inform actions. Our integrated theory is
represented schematically as the adaptation action cycle. Transformation adaptation is
defined as a discrete decision that fundamentally (but not necessarily irreversibly) results
in change in the biophysical, social, or economic components of a system from one form,
function or location (state) to another, with the aim of enhancing the capacity for desired
values to be achieved given perceived or real changes in the present or future environment.

Interestingly, the two concepts underpinning the adaptation action cycle originate from
differing, and sometimes considered competing, ideological perspectives. Whilst the
resilience approach describes the stages of change occurring within the construct of the
social-ecological system in response to multiple drivers, a more anthropocentric decision-
making perspective aimed at informing change management outcomes (generally focusing
on livelihoods) is taken in the vulnerability literature. These two concepts have been
operationalized to produce insights into the different stages of the incremental and
transformational adaptation process occurring within the wine industry in Australia over a
five-year period.

Results from the first year of data collection and analysis suggests that a number of factors,
including the size and structure of an enterprise, may impact the nature of the decision-
making process, type of transformation strategies adopted (e.g. in situ land use change,
translocation, or diversification of income streams), outcomes and visions of success.
Analysis to date shows that the two elements of existing theory can be effectively
synthesized and applied to agricultural production systems not only to understand the
dynamics of transformative adaptation, but also to provide insights into the information
needs, opportunities and limitations for undertaking fundamental change in agricultural
production in the face of climate change.

								
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