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It’s been a while since I’ve written a post – mostly because I have been ‘doing a literature review’ to inform my research project.  This has helped me think more about my research purpose – building on my post of 19 November and the clear distinction I am now making between ‘the intervention’ (a 9-12 month piece of work based on appreciative inquiry) and ‘the research’ (what I am doing for my T847 project).

So to revisit my thoughts on purpose…(keeping to ‘the research’ as the bounded system of interest)

PQR:

A system to investigate whether systems thinking is an ‘absent competence’ or ‘constrained capability’ amongst those involved in leading partnership working for wellbeing and health in an English city

by means of literature review and primary research (analysis of ‘Discovery’ interviews carried out as participants initiate a developmental piece of work using appreciative inquiry)

in order to contribute to improvements in the domain of practice concerned with working in partnership to improve wellbeing and health (and reduce inequalities) at an English local authority level and to contribute to academic writing linking Public Health theory and practice with Systems.

Critical Systems Heuristics:

And now to revisit my first boundary critique – applying the 12 critical systems heuristics prompts (Ulrich and Reynolds, 2010, 279) …..

What are the motivating factors?

– Whom do I want to serve?

practitioners involved in working in partnership to improve wellbeing and health (and reduce inequalities) at an English local authority level (I include my immediate colleagues and the participants as a core part of this group) [see also earlier blog] AND academics with an interest in Public Health theory and practice and/or Systems (I include my tutor and examiners as ‘representatives’ of this group)

– What do I want to achieve?

more insight into whether systems thinking is an ‘absent competence’ or ‘constrained capability’ amongst those involved in leading partnership working for wellbeing and health in an English city AND to complete T847 research project so that I can gain my MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice.

– What should be my measure of improvement?

I have an empirically informed, academically robust perspective on the question ‘absent competence’ or ‘constrained capability’ AND I pass T847

Who is in control?

– Whom do I want to decide?

Me (because of the need for this to fit with T847 requirements) – but to do that need support of a few key participants.

– What resources do I aim to have available?

This is really about time – within a short time span. My time will be partly ‘out of work’ – transcribing, analysing.  But also ‘in work’ – bringing my immediate colleagues on board as co-researchers and organising the interviews. Also there is the time of co-researchers and time of the participants themselves for the interviews.

Costs include getting appropriate recording equipment for interviews.  Also wondering whether need to ‘buy in’ transcription service to off-set against own time (part of managing the risk of running out of time or putting myself under stress)

I’ve read about ‘software’ that helps analyse themes in qualitative data (NViVo).  Need to look into whether that would be useful and feasible in terms of cost.

– What conditions of success should rightly be controlled by third parties?

I still struggle with knowing if I am interpreting this question okay.

The only thing that comes to mind – linked to the secondary aim – is the involvement of tutors/examiners of the Open University – they control the criteria by which this will be seen as an academically appropriate piece of work.  However, those criteria are laid out for me – I just need to make sure I work across the two sets of expectations – so meeting the criteria is not completely out of my control, even if the criteria themselves are!

What information and skills are relevant?

– Whom do I want to contribute their experience and expertise?

A number of academic authors – some known, some not yet known (via their journal articles and books); A couple of friends I have who work in academia (public health field); Tutors/course team; Other students of MSc in Systems thinking and practice; Potentially my co-researchers, if the people I have in mind are willing.

– What information and skills do I want them to contribute?

Grounding in practice of Research – being an informed investigator (practitioner); research paradigms and theory (framework of ideas), framing a research project, research approaches and process design, developing semi-structured interview, analysis of interview data (method).

How to practice research in manner consistent with postmodern ‘sentiment’ and support in my quest for competence in systemic research and practice.

Critical challenge and also encouragement when times are low

Developing rapport and interviewing skills (if do with others).

– Where should I look for some guarantee of success?

Competent knowledge consistent with the postmodern sentiment and Systems thinking in practice (as familiar with through TU811/812 materials)

What stakeholders should be considered?

– Whom do I want to voice the concerns of those not involved? What do I want to do to emancipate those stakeholders?

There will be a limitation on number of people who can be ‘participants’ because of time.  However the design of the longer intervention will allow more people to participate in the wider inquiry.

‘People of Newcastle’ are a key stakeholder group. They are ‘secondary clients’ of this work on the assumption that ‘systems thinking’ makes for ‘better partnership working for wellbeing and health’ which makes for ‘better health outcomes for people of Newcastle’.  I cannot involve them directly but there are two or three key individuals who would be appropriate to include as participants – it would be great if they are willing to be involved as one of the key aspects of partnership working based on the postmodernist sentiment is citizen engagement (as comes out in the WHO paper, I keep referring to).

This research fits with the initiation of a piece of work connected with a wider local development need.  However, the wider domain of practice I want to improve is ‘partnership working for wellbeing and health at English local authority level’.  As a piece of work, it may be of interest to colleagues I have in similiar roles elsewhere in England.  I am a member of a network where I can share the work – both in progress and at the end.

– What worldview do I want to rely on?

That Systems thinking is an important capability when working in partnership for wellbeing and health but is not currently valued.

That incorporating systems thinking into our partnership working practices opens up possibilities for creating conditions for good health and positive wellbeing for people in Newcastle

CATWOE:

Customers =

practitioners involved in working in partnership to improve wellbeing and health (and reduce inequalities) at an English local authority level (I include my immediate colleagues and the participants as a core part of this group) AND academics with an interest in Public Health theory and practice and/or Systems (I include my tutor and examiners as ‘representatives’ of this group)

Actors =

me – as lead researcher; my immediate colleagues – who I anticipate will make up the core team of interviewers (and be the action research ‘team’ for the whole intervention); participants – who will be interviewed and relate their experiences

Transformation Process =

No answer to the question “absent competence” or “constrained capability” TO an answer to the question (NB not an either/or question – could be a bit of both)

Worldview =

Systems thinking is an important capability when working in partnership for wellbeing and health but is not currently valued

Owner =

me; but there are a couple of key players who could make this ‘stop’ – I am getting their support at the moment

Environmental constraints =

constraints of T847 timetable; risk of time availability of participants in the correct timespan; timing of any absences (e.g. annual leave) I have from work

 

As I have re-iterated this purpose over the last few posts it feels as if I have been homing in on something more and more bounded.

There are a few differences I’ve noticed this time.

Firstly, I now see the research as just interviews and no workshop – that is because the work I did on timelines made me realise a workshop would be too ambitious in T847 timescales (it will still happen as part of wider intervention).

Secondly, I’ve shifted from a UK local authority level to an English local authority level domain of practice – this has come about from one set of papers I found comparing different approaches to wellbeing and health work post-devolution which has made me realise that the English setting creates different ‘constraints’ to Wales and Scotland (N.I. was not in these studies).

Thirdly, I am also clearer about the ‘dual accountability’ to practice and to academia – I think this has come about from seeing how authors of academic papers have ‘handled’ that tension (or not).

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, I seem to have what you would call a ‘Research Title’ – which is in effect my research  question – something that can help me be more purposeful in my research process… it looks like this:

Systems thinking in partnership working in wellbeing and health practice: absent competence or constrained capability?

This is because – to date in my literature reviewing – the only ‘action to improve’ that I have found is ‘leaders need systems thinking skills’ with the implication that you need to send them on a training course and they’ll come back and everything will be sorted. Okay, I am probably over-simplifying for effect and obviously won’t say it like this in my formal assignments but I can’t help thinking that this is the trap of reductionism – reducing what is in effect a need for systemic change to educational initiatives only – this is from authors who are using systems ideas elsewhere in their papers.  And, what’s more my more informal observations at work is that many people are natural systems thinkers.  AND, I am a ‘trained’ systems thinker but still find the setting in which I work constrains it.  Enough of a rant….but at least I am passionate about what I am going to be looking into.

Now to write that all up nicely into a TMA!

References

Ulrich, W. & Reynolds, M., 2010. Critical Systems Heuristics. In Reynolds, M. and Holwell, S. (Editors), Systems Approaches to Managing Change: A practical guide. Milton Keynes/London: The Open University/Sage Publications, pp. 243-292.


2 Responses

  1. #1
    David 

    HiHelen
    Great job – its quite similar to my personal VSM research but from a different perspective and domain (of course). I had done a full purpose, catwoe and csh which I am planning to use as an appendix to TMA01 referring to it in the main text. I wanted to revisit my ealier (appendix) draft before I sent it to the CoP. I think the focus for you is right. My contention is that ST is absent from most management thinking and I am using VSM as a means (similar to yours) of testing/reseaching how it be received and used by some managers who ‘do their own personal vsm’ before interrogating their organsiational domain. It will be interesting to compare outcomes.
    D

  2. This looks good, Helen. Re. CSHq6, why not also include your research subjects as sources of check on your first aim (as with your later comment…”I am also clearer about the ‘dual accountability’ to practice and to academia – I think this has come about from seeing how authors of academic papers have ‘handled’ that tension (or not)…”)?

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