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PRACTITIONER-RESEARCHER  June 2004

PRACTITIONER-RESEARCHER June 2004

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Subject:

Practitioner-Researcher Seminar in Bath -repaired

From:

Robyn Pound <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Robyn Pound <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 20 Jun 2004 22:19:27 +0100

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text/plain

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I bungled the cutting and pasting of this message the first time and hope I
have got it right now.  Sorry about repeated mailings folks.  Robyn

Thank you Jack and Brian for arranging such an inspiring day on Saturday at
Bath.  It was wonderful to put faces to people whose expertise and ideas
are all so influential in the development of practitioner research, and to
mine.  I am very aware that I did not have conversations with everyone and
missed valuable opportunities.  I am also aware that what I heard was often
filtered (as Je Kan would say) through my own lens and I may not be doing
justice to the intentions of the speakers.  I believe I am learning to be a
better listener, but admit to allowing my thoughts to spin off sometimes
into making connections with what I am trying to understand or think I know
already.  Actually, I think this is how I learn - by reviewing and
expanding where I am going with ideas.  So this is my account of the day
and may have little relevance anyone else.

I was pleased to see Peter standing by the door as I arrived.  I feel an
affinity to him as companion from the beginning of my enquiring, even
though I only see him occasionally.  He said something that I heard as his
looking forward to opportunities this day would offer to have exploratory
meaning-making conversations. With his hand he demonstrated a ribbon of
talk coming from mouths when people rehearse static ideas that do not
invite dialectical conversation.  In my head I made a link between the kind
of conversation that can occur when people are at ease with each other, are
eager to understand other points of view and can suspend trying to get
their own point of view across for a time. I wish I could always do that.
But I felt excited by the link to the importance I place in connecting with
others so that reciprocity and risk taking in conversation is
possible. 'Yes!' I said and the day began for me.

I have never been to an 'Open House' day before but had no doubts at all
that it would work here because of the commitment to finding out that comes
with the territory of practitioner research for improving and explaining.
Jack added another reason I had not considered before. In the room were
around twenty-five people who were all experienced researchers who had
already made significant contributions to knowledge of practice.  To choose
just one or two to make presentations or even to have twenty-five brief
presentations would place constraints on the dialogical process of enquiry
we relish with other people capable on engaging in this kind of
conversation.

To the invitation to speak to someone we had not met before I dived for
Eden because of our brief email conversation about positive discrimination
and my delight at the values I read on his website.  I missed.  He was
already 'taken' so to speak and I found myself sitting next to Polis.  What
a pleasure was in store.  In his quiet sincere way Polis explained that he
believed the most important thing was to be yourself and to find
understanding about yourself in what you do. 'Yes! again' As he spoke about
his ministry in the Salvation Army, I got the feeling he had taken this
idea even further than me in that he did not appear to feel constrained by
expectations of his employment or what is expected of him working in an
area of high need.  In response to my comment about having learnt from
situations of contradiction he asked if conflict was important to
learning.  He appeared at peace, on the outside at least, that who he is in
his role is what matters.  I appreciate his insight because of the
immediate resources it mobilises for tackling theory-practice gaps and
provides strategies for facing problems.

I saw this same ease with himself in Eden when we met up next with
Madeleine in the 'foursome' conversations.  To me Eden was as he is on his
website, easy to be with and generous in ways that made me open to
receiving his challenge about 'manipulation' as a way of describing my
attempts to influence.  Madeleine expanded our attention from relating in
the 1:1 to organisational change and here lies my personal learning for the
day.

In break times I talked with Jacqui, Sarah and Marion who are all, like me,
attempting to apply their self-study insights in large organisations where
traditional ways of creating knowledge and accounting for outcomes have
become a conditioned response that proves hard to influence.  Warmth and
hopefulness on both sides appear to be a feature of new fresh faced
employment relationships.  Trust it seems, in the quirky ways we bring can
fade when the organisation realises it is not going to get exactly what it
thinks it has bought.  Managing conflict seems to become an issue if those
in charge get the feeling they have lost control over the process they were
anticipating and their own knowledge doesn't fit.  The common themes of
confidence in what we know, but doubts about how we influence organisations
so that we can deliver are remarkably similar.  I can only report the
insight I had about this and would like to share it here.

In my health visiting I have been working with a family whose child is
about to start nursery and at three and a half years is not toilet trained.
Mum said he will not sit on the potty and cries and fights her to get
away.  When she wrestles the nappy off he is capable of holding on for
hours asking from time to time for it to be put on.  She was surprised
when  I explained that actually he is trained, in that he can hold on for
long periods, but the problem is that he has not yet learnt how to do it in
the appropriate place.  The battle to get him to do something new when he
feels resistant to learning is absorbing all their energy.  What she could
do is put the nappy back on when he asks for it just long enough to use it
and then take it straight off again.  If she agreed to his wish to use the
nappy when he asks, it could happen in the appropriate place and not take
very long.  He would be delighted to be back in control of the whole
process, not only being good at holding on.  Pretty quickly the conflict
could evaporate with the next step to doing it in the loo and not bothering
about the nappy easier.

I offered this story as a possible metaphor for dealing with the risk of
conflict when another person reacts to loss of control or loss of their
personal significance.  To take a step back when the leap of understanding
required is too big, to the safe connected place, means that the warm
hopefulness and willingness to co-operate could be regained.  This is where
manipulation is the word I would previously have used. Perhaps I could call
it a grown-up responsiveness to the learning processes of others so that
together we can get to an initially agreed, but modified-along-the-way,
goal.  Laughter from the others to the idea that we might sometimes need
to 'put the nappy back on' in organisations and try other tactics, helped
me feel hopeful about the appropriateness of alongsideness to influencing
organisational change.
I am sure this isnít all I got from the day.  Thanks for the listen!
Robyn

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