Paradigm shift

I saw a tweet recently that said something like “you know when someone says paradigm shift that it is going to be a long meeting”.  No idea how long this blog will be – wanted to pull a few strands of thought together.

The thoughts were prompted by a friend of mine pointing me in the direction of a great on-line essay by Charles Eisenstein – called 2013: The Space between Stories.  It really cleverly describes something I’ve experienced both as a ‘citizen’ and also in my ‘work’.  I highly recommend that readers follow the link above now to get a sense of Eisenstein’s essay that starts:

Every culture has a Story of the People to give meaning to the world. Part conscious and part unconscious, it consists of a matrix of agreements, narratives, and symbols that tell us why we are here, where we are headed, what is important, and even what is real. I think we are entering a new phase in the dissolution of our Story of the People, and therefore, with some lag time, of the edifice of civilization built on top of it.

In fact if you’ve only got a few minutes, read that blog not this one!

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Social learning on the sly

I’ve been a little bit quiet of late.  Can’t believe it is nearly a month since my last blog (that felt like being in the confessional!).  Part of it was a great week in Paris but mostly it was because I was v.v.v.v. busy at work…..

Yesterday, Newcastle had its second Wellbeing and Health Summit – and I had to organise it.  From head to toe – the concept, the design, the invites, supervising input of a whole team into prep work and then yesterday itself acting as a facilitator with one of my colleagues. 150 people coming together to ‘re-think wellbeing and health’ in the city. Continue reading

How can I help release natural systems talent in others?

This week I have had a couple of major breakthroughs in my quest to introduce systems thinking and practice to others.  Whilst I recognise those successes – this post is not about them specifically.  I want to reflect on what I am discovering about others and the learning that they value.

The colleagues I am talking about are people who are natural systems thinkers – I listen to them try and articulate their ideas, try and scribble diagrams that demonstrate their models of what they are thinking, use their hands to draw ‘systems’ in the air.  They use the word systems and talk of whole systems approaches and systems thinking.  I just want to say “stop, listen to me for a few hours and I’ll take this natural talent you have to a whole new level.  I want to let you know of some language, ideas and tools that will release this natural talent”.  Perhaps this is how it feels to be a sporting coach spotting new talent but seeing that the athlete does not currently have the technique, disposition or awareness of how their body works to take their natural ability to Olympic standard. Continue reading

My journey through a landscape of practices

(Activity 3.29)

“Learning can be viewed as a journey through landscapes of practice” (Wenger, 2010, in Blackmore, 2010, 185).

Ever since I read it, that phrase has been eating away at me – triggering connections all over the place…

It has given me a sense of dissatisfaction with the way I wrote my post about being part of communities of practice.

I have also made connections with an exercise we had to do in the first assignment for the course, plotting our individual trajectories, the journey that led us to start TU812.  At the time that had value in understanding the importance of our history to our approach to the course.  I wrote my post called Legacy as a result of that exercise.

Finally I was reminded of the way I pictured the C-ball in Reflection on juggling as a sack full of concepts, methods and techniques and my responsibility to keep renewing the contents of that sack.

Making the connection between a journey and the sack made me start thinking…as I have taken my journey through landscapes of practice, what have I learned – in other words what concepts, methods and techniques have I gathered to fill my sack.  This has made me think very differently about my connections with communities of practice.

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CoP out?

(Activity 3.22, 3.23, 3,24)

It felt clever giving this title to a post about Communities of Practice (CoP).  However, as I am not sure where I am going to go with the post I don’t really know whether it is relevant or not!

I have covered a little bit of ‘community of practice’ theory before – when  I studied Managing Knowledge.  In that field they were seen as a refreshing change to an information management approach as they focused more on human interaction.

Then there is my more recent experience – I think the phrase ‘community of practice’ is getting over-used and applied to entities that don’t really fulfill the essence of what Wenger describes – he and Lave coined the term to describe something very particular

Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. [source E Wenger, http://www.ewenger.com/theory/ , accessed 27 February 2011]

but it seems to get used to refer to any type of group network, especially when internet based social networking platforms are used.

Seems a pity that we participate in things we think of as ‘communities of practice’ but in reality they are not CoP and therefore we may overlook the opportunity to take part in a ‘real’ one.

Perhaps I need to explore my experiences some more….

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Natural resource management, health and wellbeing: drawing parallels

Woodhill (2002) describes the development of natural resource management over time as:

– a technocentric era – where it was seen as a “technical problem requiring technical solutions” (page 69) and primarily the responsibility of government

– a localist era – focussed on community participation and local level change.

However, his work challenges this localist perspective and says it needs to be complemented by “broader scale institutional change” (page 70).  He says that NRM is entering an institutional era.

He advocates that a paradigm of social learning is central  to “overcoming such institutional constraints and engaging with the deeper causes of the ecological unsustainability of modern society” (page 70).

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Links between paradigm of social learning and juggling

Woodhill  (2002) identifies three elements for facilitating the development of social learning.  He points out that these are the three defining features of a paradigm for social learning.

– A paradigm is defined by its philosophical assumptions – a paradigm for social learning includes philosophical reflection.

– A paradigm is defined by its methodological approaches – a paradigm for social learning includes methodological pluralism.

– A paradigm is defined by its institutionalised practices – a paradigm for social learning needs institutional design.

As I read Woodhill’s commentary on what he experiences in the here and now and what he advocates is needed for a social learning paradigm, I saw a number of parallels with what we learned through the juggler isophor in part 2.

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What does ‘critical’ mean?

I have been reading about critical social learning systems and it has set me thinking – what is the difference between social learning and critical social learning.  Or perhaps more specifically, what did Bawden and his colleagues seek to emphasise and draw attention to when they chose to use the prefix the phrase with the word critical?

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