WEEK 3 READING 2 - Towards a model of critical community practice - Coggle…
WEEK 3 READING 2 - Towards a model of critical community practice
It comprises a disposition and mindset that entails community practitioners working to enhance their critical and creative capabilities, their enquiry and analytical skills, and their powers of reflection, both as individuals and in concert with others.
It is used to continuously review ideals, assumptions and dispositions in order that, in a reflexive way, they further develop their effectiveness in their chosen field of practice.
Contemporary life is akin to navigating a boat through the turbulence and hazards of permanent 'white-water' rapids.
White-water rapids is full of surprises, producing problems of navigation that are novel, ill defined and challenging. To navigate such waters skillfully requires individuals to integrate the disciplines of learning in their very being, to adopt learning as a whole mentality.
Learning is more than a skill, as a way of being it is a whole posture towards experience - a way of framing and interpreting all experience as a learning opportunity or learning process.
Learning as a way of being provides CCP with its key dynamic:
Learning results from continuously reviewing and reflection on the model in use
Keep on questioning and reviewing the formulation of its guiding value commitments and its theoretical assumptions in the light of new knowledge from experience and from development in theory.
A practitioner adopting action-learning as a way of being entails the following:
Learning to reason, evaluate, take account of evidence, and exercise creative thought.
The importance of emotional intelligence
Learning as dialogical
Organisational and societal learning
(see pages 59-62 for details on each)
In CCP, practitioners necessarily engage in constructive criticism as they exercise and develop their critical capacities.
Becoming a critical thinker involves a set of thinking abilities including:
An ability to analyse and evaluate your own beliefs -
in order to develop the most accurate beliefs possible.
An ability to view situations from different perspectives -
in order to develop in-depth understanding.
A willingness to support viewpoints with reasons and evidence -
in order to arrive at thoughtful, well-substantiated conclusions.
A capacity to critically appraise the personal 'lenses' -
that shape and influence the way we perceive the world.
A skilfulness in synthesising information -
in order to reach informed conclusions
Critical community practice is grounded in the following assumptions about the nature of human beings, community and society.
1. Human society:
Humans are collectively interdependent, and human nature necessarily arises as a social product shaped as a consequence of living in a particular kind of society.
Human beings are regarded as social animals dependent on other human beings for a range biological, emotional and cognitive needs.
There's evidence to show that the process of personality formation and growth is dependent on social interaction.
2. Symbolisation and symbolic communication:
Human beings have a high level capacity for symbolisation and symbolic communication
The assumption is basically that humans can and do have capacity to think and communicate abstract symbols (which is far in advance of other species).
Almost all significant human action (and collective) social life involves symbol manipulation and communication - and it is this that enables humans to relate to each other in voluntaristic and purposeful ways.
We have a capacity to modify our own thoughts and actions as a consequence of what we believe or discover about others' thinking and feelings.
Human's ability to use and manipulate abstract symbols gives them a capacity for rational thought, reflection and imagination.
3. Society and social institutions as socially constructed:
Human beings possess the potential to jointly develop and shape patterns of social relationships and social institutions in a considered and potentially rational manner.
It includes social and institutional structures that provide a (democratic) bias for determining a shared life in society.
The understanding is that human beings have the ability to accomplish the task of jointly designing and constructing (and reconstructing) aspects of their social relationships and social institutions.
4. Human beings a socially constituted:
Human beings become 'constituted' by the communities they are a part of.
This occurs because our developing capacity for symbolisation and communications is shaped via socialisation into a particular language, and as specific patterns of social relationships and institutional structures come to be taken for granted.
Community is to be thought of as an 'open' system that changes and evolves in response to its external environment and internally to the collective actions of its members, rather than as being an organic unity in which people are totally subservient creatures.
5. Democratic decision making:
Deliberate and participatory models of democracy become available as approaches to collective decision making in communities as a consequence of the previous four assumptions.
If all members of a community have an equal stake and ownership of it, share the life and opportunities offered by communal living, and have the capacity to engage in discussion about its future, then it can be argued that there is no reasonable justification for not giving due consideration to the views of all.
Doing otherwise would be treating someone as means to an end, thus diminishing or negating their 'personhood' and acting oppressively.
Social justice -
this includes promoting equality and fairness as well as respect for social difference, and is integral to critical community practice in attempting to overcome disadvantage, exclusion and oppression.
Self-determination (both collective and individual) -
It's important that citizens take more control over the conditions of their lives by securing greater levels of civil and political engagement in democratic processes.
Comprises of the core principles and values regarded as desirable and worthwhile, that orientates personal, organisational an political action. If ideals shape the destination, principles of action shape the journey taken to reach them.
(see page 57 of reading for detail on each)
PRINCIPLES OF ACTION:
Guide choices about the best (or preferred) ways of achieving ideals. If ideals shape the destination, principles of action shape the journey taken to reach them.
Transformational change in societal institutions
If critical community practice is about promoting awareness of the way social processes that produce social disadvantage and oppression can be 'other than they are', and is about empowering citizens to take action to broaden and deepen the democratic processes through which the desirable outcomes of community, organisational and political change can be realised, then both the practices and the goals of critical community practice are consistent with the public interest in 'actually existing' as well as 'aspiring' democratic practices.
A type of social theory that provides and understanding of present-day social relationships and institutions, and that makes us aware of how such relationships and institutions can be other than they are.
PROBLEMS WITH 'ACTUALLY EXISTING' DEMOCRACY:
Also known as radical democracy
Actually existing democracy' -
a democratic system in which citizens exercise their political right to vote for representatives during periodic elections, thereby vesting in the winning candidates the authority to shape public policy and exercise control over the administration of their behalf.
Advocacy has re-emerged as a powerful force for change, as a response to increasing dissatisfaction with existing forms of liberal social democracy.
Increased levels of citizen participation and deliberation in decision-making enhance political equality; the power of concentrated resources to influence the democratic process is reduced through an emphasis on 'the force of better arguments'. Enhanced participation shifts the basis of political contestation from organised money to organised people.
It encourages greater levels of political responsibility. Competitive representation is weak as far as ensuring official accountability is concerned; under competitive representation ordinary people are tempted to leave the hard work of policy making to professional politicians. As a consequence, the democratic skills, capacities and habits of the citizenry are apt to atrophy.
It fosters political autonomy, enabling citizens to live under rules that they have played a part in crafting for themselves.
Causes of democratic disengagement:
Citizens do not feel the democratic process offers them enough influence over decisions that determine the conditions of their lives.
The main political parties are too similar in their prescriptions and policies - Voting procedures are seen as inconvenient and unattractive.
People feel they lack knowledge and information on which to engage in politics
The Theory of participative and deliberate democracy:
Political scientists argue for a substantial widening of democratic participation, along with a 'deliberate' approach to decision-making that rests on processes of public reasoning rather than the process of interest aggregation, bargaining and exercises in 'power over' so characteristic of of contemporary democracy.
Aims to ensure that political argument and appeals to interest are framed by considerations such as fairness, equality and common advantage. When citizens take these political values seriously, political decisions are not simply a product of power and interest - even citizens who do not win can see that the decisions are supported by good reasons.
As a result, members can (despite disagreement) all regard their conduct as guided by their own reason.
(Cohen and Fung 2004, p. 26-27)
There are numerous issues that critical community practitioners must work to resolve if the potential of participatory community governance is to be realised.
CCP rests on citizens and communities taking a key role in all of the sites identified in Figure 4.2 CCP, including: policy-making processes, programme leadership and management, participatory politics and so forth.
The critical community practitioner's task is to contribute to fashioning a convincing and concrete vision and agenda for change, in a way that makes real 'how things could be other than they currently are'.
This is best achieved through an action-learning process, which involves addressing change issued across a broad range of policy and practice.
Community workers and other professional workers involved in community engagement and outreach activities have a key role to play in encouraging development of individual and organisational capacity for confident and effective involvement in participatory community governance.
Informal community education, supporting community groups and campaign work, building the capacity of local infrastructure (meeting places, resource centres) and agency outreach (health, education, environmental) all assist in further developing the stock of local 'social capital' that works as a powerful stimulus to engagement in wider processes of community governence.
Reflective thinking essentially involves the practitioner in doing things (probing, questioning etc) and thinking about the things they are doing (reflecting, evaluating feedback etc)
Definition of Reflection: Quinn 1998 p.122
It's the ability to think and consider experiences, perceptions, ideas (values and beliefs), with a view to the discovery of new relations or the drawing of conclusions for the guidance of future action.
Adds an additional dimension to reflection - it entails an ability to examine and reflect upon one's own thought and thought processes, to contextualise them (become critically aware of the context under which they have been shaped and are deployed), and develop a capacity to modify them as a result of such inspection.
Role of the practitioner:
Mentally reliving a particular experience and paying attention to that experience in the light of critical consciousness - this includes attending to feelings and reactions, and the emotions that the experience invokes (these may be helpful or obstructive emotions).
The experience is 'reviewed' from different perspectives and then the practitioner appraises what has happened and then draws on critical theory to reach informed conclusions about the dynamics of what was happening.
At the same time, the capacity to evaluate experiences is enhanced by explicitly examining them through the lens of the guiding values and working assumptions that comprise the foundations of critical community practice.
Reflecting on experience in the light of insights gained from a determined and rigorous use of the above processes leads to enhanced learning, which then becomes incorporated in the meaning structures that comprise the practitioner's critical consciousness.
The learning that takes place is used to inform the future action of the practitioner.
REFLECTION: Cognitive and Emotional Dimensions
Emotional intelligence is exercised to deepen understanding of resultant feelings and where they 'come from'. Burying or denying feelings can prevent effective learning from experience.
Reflection assists to suspend judgement, maintain a healthy scepticism, and exercise an open mind.
Dewey (1986) suggests that reflective thought has both an intellectual and an emotional component. It entails the intellectual and emotional strength to go beyond the known without falling to pieces.
It is where practitioners poke, question and reflect on what they have learned from their experience.
Scepticism, questioning and open evaluation are essential - examine the problem, find and implement a solution, think about why you were or were not successful, and learn from your success and failures.
The process of reflection specifically involves 'standing back' from, and systematically reviewing, in a rigorous and patient way, what has been happening.
REFLECTION: Organisational reflection
The question is - how can the model of reflection be used collectively?
Building shared vision
Shared mental models and 'working assumptions'
(See page 74 for details on each)