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Maxwell School
Maxwell / PARCC
Navigating Complex Trade-OffsNavigating Complex Trade-Offs in Conservation and Development: An Integrative Framework,” Issues in Interdisciplinary Studies No. 31, 2013, pp. 99-122

Paul D. Hirsch, Assistant Professor, Environmental Studies, SUNY ESF; Research Director, PARCC, Maxwell School 
with co-authors (full listing on article title page)

Paul Hirsch and co-authors from a variety of disciplinary, cultural, and organizational perspectives 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 they present is particularly relevant in the context of highly complex problems—those involving complicated and uncertain dynamics, a multiplicity of values, a multiplicity of perspectives, and the exercise of multiple forms of power (including the power to frame the problem). The authors argue that setting aside the urge for synthesis—and thereby preserving enough of the complexity of the problem—can serve as a starting point for fertile and productive engagements between researchers working across disciplines, and between researchers and practitioners.  Download the article (pdf).