Some form of adaptive management is needed to address complex, uncertain and wicked natural resource management situations. Adaptive management is dependent on learning, in particular social learning. We reflect on some practical constraints on social learning by reference to a recent local scale project in south-eastern Australia. The ‘Meeting in the Middle’ project aimed to facilitate the development and sharing of knowledge about soil health among farmers, advisors and scientists. The project was successful when measured against traditional extension criteria, but the creation and maintenance of an acceptable space for continuous knowledge creation and sharing is proving elusive. This appears to be related to the quite different paradigms within which the various individual and institutional players operate. Understanding how to recognize, manage and ultimately benefit from the juxtaposition of different world views is challenging but necessary for adaptive management, so we conclude with some reflections on this challenge. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.