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It feels like the last week has been one of big leaps in thinking about my research project – it’s time now to do a little bit of consolidating of where I am and ‘next steps’.  Unlike my usual ‘story telling’ style, this post is made up of notes and jottings of where my head is and where it is prompting me to go next…

Theoretical interests and underpinnings….

Schon – social systems with ‘dynamic conservatism’; conceptual parts of that represent ‘ideas in good currency’; Takes shock to create change – big change that of paradigm shift – see my own blog and also Schon in Social learning book.

Language is ‘social technology’ (TU812; Ison); language linked to systems of meaning (D843 materials); therefore language is part of the dynamic conservatism – need to read up more – Lakoff on frames and underpinning metaphors.  Also Ison.

My interest is in paradigm shift – seem to remember Schon said these were big shifts.  Best articulation of the shift I am interested in is “our purpose is to contribute to the ongoing re-visioning of the Western mindset – to add impetus to the movement away from a modernist worldview based on a positivist philosophy and a value system dominated by crude notions of economic progress, towards emerging perspectives which share a ‘postmodern’ sentiment.” (Reason and Bradbury, 2006, page xxiii).

Feels to me these postmodern ideas – including systems thinking and practice – have been waiting on the margins.  As recognise globalisation – increasing uncertainty, unpredictability etc – we are getting the ‘shock’ we need to create the shift.  Need change in ideas we value.

Issue of change – let it happen or enable it to happen.  Notions of managing systemic change (TU812).  So like Reason and Bradbury I want to ‘contribute to the ongoing re-visioning’….requires social learning.  Can only act in own sphere of interaction (a point I remember from talk by Ralph Stacey)

Also links to Law and Urry – need to read their article – social inquiry helps to make world.  Contributes to change.

Finally something here about power – those with power gain most from current paradigm.  This is threat to their identity (e.g. said by Ralph Stacey about senior managers).  This probably key element in the dynamic conservatism too.  Back to Discourse – hegemony; emancipation angle.

My domain of practice – where I can ‘intervene’

Following Ulrich (2001) – most be clear about where you have ‘quest for improvement’.

Practices of ‘partnership working for wellbeing and health at UK local authority level’ – described this in more detail on this blog; field influenced by a number of other practice domains – public health; management; organisational theory; leadership; social policy, development management.  In literature for many of these see the ‘shift’ being advocated.

Studies and academics saying ‘ought’ to be change in way do it – Governance for health in 21st century; work of Hunter at Durham Uni (need to read this work more).  But these papers describe where should be but not how to enable that shift – I think if work on postmodern sentiment then not just old ideas of change (modernist, positivist) – has to be managing systemic change.  Need to check – has anyone else been saying this specifically in this domain? (as compared to sustainability, environomental decision making)

The intervention

Following Schein ideas on research – keen to take helping role where ‘data generation’ secondary.

Intervention based on the process of Appreciative Inquiry – some familiarity and experience with this but need to read up more.

Rough design – individual interviews (Discover) (which form primary data for formal project) then will move through into Dream etc but this may not be in ‘boundary’ of actual research project timeline.

Can ‘feedback’ research findings as way to highlight differences in shift – this not part of usual Appreciative Inquiry approach – but could be effective way of introducing opportunity for reflection about whether going through ‘the shift’.

Risk I am taking in terms of ‘intervention’ – it works on the assumption that when asked what value, people ‘more likely’ to highlight examples that underpinned by postmodern sentiment.  If don’t will have to do stocktake on intervention front but this won’t ‘hold up’ my T847 project.

The Research bit of this

Using interview data (generated through ‘Discover’ part of AI).

Questions to frame analysis of data: Do people currently work in ways underpinned by postmodern sentiment?  Do they value it – does it come to fore when asked what they value?  (potentially, though may be ‘too deep’ – also do they struggle with language to fit with underlying conceptions of work in postmodernist sentiment – do we have the right ‘frames’).

Need to so some work of what shifts will be looking at – example of what I mean is “communication as info exchange” to “communication as dialogue/source of learning”.  There are lots of these sorts of shifts spattered around the literature.  Need to firm this up as some sort of analytical framework (D843 – etic and emic approaches – can’t remember which one this is).

NB research project NOT an evaluation of whether ‘the intervention’ works – it is an analysis of the interview data generated as part of the intervention.  Keep that in mind…… for T847 assignments and project.. need to look at narrower “purpose” within the bigger picture intervention “purpose”.   Should do root definitions/conceptual model on overall process with research process as a ‘subsystem’.

Logistical issues – requiring more systematic thinking and action

Need to get work to agree.  Start with manager – ask his views on suggested participants.  He is likely to want a ‘proposal’ that he can share with others… beef up the relevance of the intervention to what we are trying to do anyway.  This contributes to understanding of ‘feasibility’ – main potential barrier is others committing time.  (Need to use SSM systemically desirable; culturally feasible analysis to test some more).

Need to decide whether work with co-researchers – pros and cons but if they are up for it I should endeavour to make it work.

Start to pin down a timeline e.g. time slots for interviews (probably need an hour for each one)

Will need to transcribe interviews – will be time consuming.  Make sure book time in.

risk management – may have less interviews for ‘research project’ than for whole intervention if time becomes difficult

TMA01 – due in 22 Dec

prioritise and structure above actions so ‘fits’ with production of TMA01.  Must keep clarity of ‘subsystem’ of whole intervention.

Need intro – what focussing on and what purpose; why important; how relates to theory and practice.  All of this will be covered by above once consolidated.

Need ‘background’ – main section – how/why identified problem; nature, extent and characteristics; why important to organisation (for me partnership NOT organisation) and to STiP (or can I follow TU812/Ulrich and say area of practice – STiP is afterall to be applied to many domains).  Okay it looks like I am covering most of the above but so far drawing mostly on STiP materials and papers directly quoted in it not yet looked at the really up to date literature – need bibliographic search – not sure how to do this! (a competence to develop).

Need ‘project evaluation and specification’ – how evaluated suitability, practicality and risk.  This seems a bit more of a ‘systematic’ checklist of things to think about – quite a long list of things to include in this section.  Confident all ‘tasks’ are ones I will do but slightly concerned about how articulate to fit with how TMA set.


I’ve mentioned lots of authors in passing – some very generally and many where linked across to other fully referenced posts.

But specific mention of:

Reason, P. & Bradbury-Huang, H. eds., 2006. Handbook of Action Research Concise Paperback Edition., London: Sage Publications.

Ulrich, W., 2001. The quest for competence in systemic research and practice. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 18(1), pp.3-28. [accessed 18 November 2011]

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