By Michael Smithson
How can we better understand ignorance? In the 1980s I proposed the view that ignorance is not simply the absence of knowledge, but is socially constructed and comes in different kinds (Smithson, 1989). Here I present a brief overview of that work, along with some key subsequent developments.
Let’s begin with a workable definition of ignorance and then work from there to a taxonomy of types of ignorance. Our definition will have to deal both with simple lack of knowledge but also incorrect ideas. It will also have to deal with the fact that if one is attributing ignorance to someone, the ignoramus may be a different person or oneself. I proposed the following definition:
By Gabriele Bammer
Once researchers have a basic understanding of various types of diversity and their impacts on researching complex societal and environmental problems, what else is it useful for them to know? How can we move towards effective ways of incorporating more diversity into research?
It is important to recognize that, while the principle of increasing diversity is admirable, putting it into practice is hard, time-consuming and risky. Increasing diversity by embedding newcomers into existing teams or establishing new teams requires time and effort to reach new understandings and ways of working to ensure that no-one is marginalized or discounted, and to resolve miscommunications and disagreements.
By Enrique Mendizabal
How can researchers seeking to change a policy get a useful picture of the key actors involved in that policy space? Who should they partner with? Who will need convincing? Whose arguments will counter their own?
The Alignment, Interest and Influence Matrix (AIIM) was designed to address these questions.
The AIIM tool is useful as far as it can encourage an open and thoughtful conversation. In my experience, the tool is most useful when the people involved provide a breadth of experience and insight into the policy process that they are trying to affect.
By Gabriele Bammer
What is the range of roles that members of a team need to cover in order for the team to be effective? What strengths and weaknesses are associated with each role?
Teamwork is common in research on complex societal and environmental problems. The Belbin team roles identify nine clusters of skills that need to be included within a team for it to be most effective. An individual can bring more than one cluster of skills to the team, with most people having two or three Belbin team roles that they are comfortable with.
By Hamilton Carvalho
What is it about complex social systems that keeps reproducing old problems, as well as adding new ones? How can public policy move away from what I call the Mencken Syndrome (in reference to a quotation from American journalist Henry Mencken) – that is, continually proposing clear and simple solutions to complex social problems – that are also wrong!
With this goal in mind, I have compiled a list of fifteen major characteristics of complex social systems based on the system dynamics and complexity sciences literatures, as well as my own research.
By Carrie Kappel
What is the groan zone in collaboration? What can you do when you reach that point?
As researchers and practitioners engaged in transdisciplinary problem-solving, we know the value of diverse perspectives. We also know how common it is for groups to run into challenges when trying to learn from diverse ideas and come to consensus on creative solutions.
This challenging, often uncomfortable space, is called the groan zone. The term comes from Sam Kaner’s diamond model of participation shown in the figure below.
By Joseph Guillaume
What’s a productive way to think about undesirable outcomes and how to avoid them, especially in an unpredictable future full of unknown unknowns? Here I describe the technique of vulnerability analysis, which essentially has three steps:
- Step 1: Identify undesirable outcomes, to be avoided
- Step 2: Look for conditions that can lead to such outcomes, ie. vulnerabilities
- Step 3: Manage the system to mitigate or adapt to vulnerable conditions.
The power of vulnerability analysis is that, by starting from outcomes, it avoids making assumptions about what led to the vulnerabilities.
Good practice in community-based participatory processes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research
By Jan Chapman, Alyson Wright, Nadine Hunt and Bobby Maher
How can participatory process in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities be made adaptable and flexible? How can theoretical frameworks take into account the cultural and geographical complexities of communities and their contexts?
Here we provide five key principles that we have found useful in engaging communities in the Mayi Kuwayu Study (https://mkstudy.com.au/).