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Posts tagged ‘practitioner’

On Sunday 7 October 2018, this moment happened.

Kielder marathon finish

It’s me at the finish line of the Kielder marathon – a marathon that involves a full circuit of the beautiful Kielder Reservoir in Northumberland.

It’s odd to say it but I can attribute my achievement in that moment back to my study of systems thinking.  When students start studying the TU812 module, there is an exercise in considering the personal trajectory leading up to the point of starting the module and what the student anticipates moving forward.  I would never have dreamed of putting ‘run a marathon’ in my trajectory beyond the module.  There are some things you don’t anticipate, don’t plan, but in retrospect you can appreciate how earlier events influence the achievement of later ones.

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Recently I wrote a post on Situations which ended as follows:

But, in spite of all the commonalities, there is a distinction in the way that TU811 treats situations of interest compared to the way TU812 treats situations of concern…

In TU811, it is perfectly possible to adopt a first order stance – using systems approaches to analyse a situation of interest that you stand apart from. You can take the mindset of a consultant asked to advise or make recommendations to someone in government or in an organisation. It is possible to be objective and distant, to lack ownership of and for the situation. I say possible, you don’t have to engage with the situation that way but you can still engage pretty effectively as a systems practitioner if you do.

In comparison, when TU812 talks of situations of concern, they tend to be situations you experience directly – something you are part of. This means a first order stance is more constraining and it is more appropriate to adopt a second order stance. Here your personal engagement with the situation and the other people who are part of it matters. Your emotioning, understandings, actions and interactions can have an influence on whether the situation improves or declines. Your own action and interaction matters.

In the last few days, I have been reflecting on this in the light of closer reading of the work of Ison (2017) and various works by Checkland (e.g. 1985) which formed the basis for Ison’s conceptual model of what it is to think about practice.

The particular aspects I have been reflecting on are the way in which the practitioner and the situation can be perceived to relate to each other.

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A few weeks ago, the co-occurrence of a ‘twitter discussion’ (initiated by @LukeCravenand some reading I was doing on policy analysis tools prompted me to start thinking about what Hill (2013) refers to as process advocacy.  Process advocacy is concerned with improving the nature of policy making.  It is different to policy advocacy in that it concerns advocating generally for ‘better’ policy process rather than the substance or content of a particular policy.

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The policy work practitioner – that’s what’s invisible.  I don’t know what makes a profession a profession but there are people out there (me included) who do policy work.  We’re a bit eclectic, there isn’t a specific body of training or degree we’ve all had.  But we are ‘professional’ level workers.  Do our job well and we help society, do our job badly then there can be missed opportunities or unintended consequences.

I was in a library today linked to a university health and social care faculty.  There were rows and rows of books on ‘nursing practice’ and a whole other set on ‘teaching practice’.  Nurses and teachers are advised on how to be reflective practitioners, to be ‘evidence-based’, to close the theory-practice gap and there are books on ‘practice development’ (a deliberate individual and collective orientation to improving how work is done – as compared to professional development which is more about an individual gaining knowledge and skills).  There are even books written – in fact flourishing sets of literature – about how to use (emancipatory) action research in education and health care settings.  This stretches to social work too.   And that’s just the books – there is an even greater wealth of journal articles, even entire journal titles, dedicated to practice development in these areas.

Now I have searched and searched and searched online and I have only found ONE book (written in 2005) that specifically talks about the work of policy – and that isn’t available in any of the three university library catalogues that I have access to. [If you look for books ON policy or theories of the policy process you have more luck, but these are grand theories, not about the day to day doing of policy work].  The editor of the book Colebatch wrote a journal article around about the same time which gives some insight into what is covered in the book.  It highlights the type of work that policy work practitioners do and how different conceptualisations of what policy and the policy process is can result in different orientations to what the role is.  Colebatch has written a number of other articles that are helpful too, but on the whole this is a very, very small research base on what can be quite an influential role.  Whilst there is one article (Adams et al 2015) I have found focussing on professional development needs of policy work practitioners, I haven’t identified anything taking the broader practice development focus afforded to nurses and teachers.

So if I ‘creatively swipe’ the practice development ideas that are so well developed and accepted in nursing, what can happen?  Can we adapt and change policy work practice in a local authority?  That’s one way of looking at my research – that’s one ‘gap’ in the literature I’d be looking to put a small offer into.

References

Adams, D., Colebatch, H.K. and Walker, C.K. (2015), Learning about Learning: Discovering the Work of Policy. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 74(2), pp.101–111.

Colebatch, H.K. ed. (2005), The work of policy: an international survey, Lexington Books.

Colebatch, H.K. (2006), What work makes policy? Policy Sciences, 39, pp.309–321.

Now that my ‘talk samples’ are coming in and I have transcribed a couple and listened to a couple more, I feel it is time to decide how I am going to analyse them.  Read more »

(T847, block 1, activity 4 – 7)

Bamberger et al. (2006) offers a classification of four types of politics that operate in organisations and wider society. Read more »

Authenticity

I’ve been quite fascinated with the concept of ‘authenticity’ since I encountered it in TU812 –  so I was a little surprised when I did a search that I have not written a post with this title before.  I did however mention the concept in this post where I mentioned the definition offered by Krippendorff

the pleasure of participating in togetherness in which one is free to speak for oneself, not in the name of absent others, not under pressure to say things one does not believe in, and not having to hide something for fear of being reprimanded or excluded from further conversation (Krippendorff, cited in Ison, 2010,311)

My fascination stems from the subjective nature of someone else experiencing you as authentic.  Read more »

There is a ‘problematic situation’ running around in my head.  It’s been there for a few weeks eating away at me – and getting me in a muddle.  It is only in the last few days, that I realised that I have a ‘tool’ for that – systemic inquiry – a structured exploration of a situation considered problematical.

So what’s the issue?

When I received my mark for my TU812 project, I noticed that in the profile of marks my ‘weakest area’ – or the area that was less strong than everything else – was the marks allocated to ‘making recommendations’.  It got me thinking and I realised that this is feedback that I have had throughout my OU studies – MBA, development management, and in systems.  Not just in projects but also in tutor marked assignments.  All of them end with some sort of ‘so what?’ or ‘what next?’ or ‘what are you going to do?’ or ‘what do you want the reader(s) to do?’ and mark profiles or tutor comments have invariably reflected this as an area of weakness.  I think in the early days I put it down to running out of steam by the end of the assignment – and just shrugged it off.  But the TU812 project mark has made me think differently – made me realise a pattern over time.  I’d started to mull this over and think of it as an area for personal development.  I even emailed my ‘CoP’ group of systemsy students and sought their comments.  And then the other day, my manager was reviewing a briefing paper I had written and in his comments he said ‘the description and analysis is fine but then I am not sure what you think should happen next.  It all gets a bit damp at the end’.  I don’t think he really expected my reaction to be so emphatic – ‘oh no’ I exclaimed and dropped my head on the table.  I came up giggling and explained my recent insight.  We’ve agreed to focus on this personal development area together. Read more »

The launch

Yesterday I had such fun.

I was invited to be part of the Open University’s Systems Groups launch of the four text books accompanying the Postgraduate Programme in Systems Thinking in Practice. The invitation came about a month ago when Ray Ison contacted me. It seemed like a great excuse to meet everyone so I said ‘yes’. Read more »

Junction

There are times in a journey that it seems appropriate to take stock, look back, look forward and decide where to go next and how.  Now is one of those times.  I have now finished TU812 so I am leaving behind a learning system that someone else has structured and guided me through.  Now, I am on my own.  I need to be my own guide for a while. Read more »

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