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Recent contributions

Writing confidentiality and anonymity into collaboration agreements

By Edgar Cardenas, L. Michelle Bennett, and Michael O’Rourke

1. Edgar Cardenas (biography)
2. L. Michelle Bennett (biography)
3. Michael O’Rourke (biography)

How might teams create norms to scaffold the use of confidentiality and anonymity in team settings? How could a team integrate language about confidentiality and anonymity into their collaboration agreement? How can teams use these approaches and simultaneously build psychological safety and trust?

In an earlier i2Insights contribution, we provided a collaboration agreement template to help teams improve their chances of collaboration success by facilitating dialogue about shared values, norms, and processes of collaboration. This template is designed around three central dimensions of collaborative research: team management, team dynamics, and team communication.

In a companion i2Insights contribution we addressed issues concerning confidentiality and anonymity in teamwork, and in this post we provide an example of one possible approach to integrating language about confidentiality and anonymity into a collaboration agreement—specifically, into the “Team Communication” part of a collaboration agreement built using our template.

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Confidentiality and anonymity in teams

By Edgar Cardenas, L. Michelle Bennett, and Michael O’Rourke

1. Edgar Cardenas (biography)
2. L. Michelle Bennett (biography)
3. Michael O’Rourke (biography)

Do confidentiality and anonymity have a place in teamwork? What are the risks and how might they be mitigated? Can teams move past the need for confidentiality and anonymity?

It takes time and intentional effort to create an environment within a team that is safe for interpersonal risk-taking (ie., a psychologically safe environment). As a team works to develop a psychologically safe environment, teammates will likely be more and more willing to speak openly about challenges. As part of this work, and in an effort to make certain all team members are comfortable sharing issues and challenges, teams may suggest adopting confidential and/or anonymous communication channels; however, there are significant risks associated with their use in teams. Here we detail some of the common risks and provide a set of design elements for dealing with them.


Teammates who have concerns and are uncomfortable sharing them openly with the full team might choose to communicate confidentially with another person, who may be on the team or outside of the team.

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Achieving change by transforming engagement

By Katja Jäger

Katja Jäger (biography)

How can civil society organisations, which rely on volunteer efforts, contribute more effectively to societal change? How can they position engagement with volunteers in a forward-looking way, so as to unleash the potential of committed people? What lessons does this have for researchers interested in social change efforts and in stakeholder engagement?

As a leader of a civil society organisation which works in the field of volunteer support, I am interested in how organisational engagement with volunteers can be most effective in supporting change efforts. Here I share a framework that we have found useful, along with four sets of questions for civil society organisations to reflect on in cooperation with their volunteers.

This work also aims to give researchers interested in social change insight into how they might effectively partner with civil society organisations, as well as how they might expand their thinking about engagement.

As a starting point, I have used the AQAL (All Quadrants All Levels) model shown in the figure below, which was developed by Ken Wilbur (1995) in his framework of integral theory.

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Challenging societal barriers: The power of metaphors and analogies in addressing stigma

By Alemu Tesfaye

Alemu Tesfaye (biography)

How can we overcome stigma, regardless of whether it’s associated with health conditions, socio-economic status, or individual identities? How can we use metaphors and analogies to convey how stigma hinders effective dialogue, intervention, and inclusion, contributing to a cycle of fear and misunderstanding, and discouraging affected individuals from seeking help or intervention due to fear of judgment, discrimination, or isolation?

Metaphors and analogies are powerful cognitive tools that shape our understanding and perception of the world around us. We employ both in our everyday language and thought processes, often without realizing it, and they heavily influence how we interpret new experiences and information. They allow us to create meaning, understand complex concepts, and connect with others in more profound ways.

In my work, I have developed the following metaphors and analogies for grasping the silent battles of individuals with two neglected tropical diseases – podoconiosis and scabies – as a vital first stride towards tearing down the wall of stigma, neglect, and discrimination that surrounds these conditions.

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Highlighted contributions

How systems thinking enhances systems leadership

By Catherine Hobbs and Gerald Midgley

1. Catherine Hobbs (biography)
2. Gerald Midgley (biography)

Systems leadership involves organisations, including governments, collaborating to address complex issues and achieve necessary systemic transformations. So, if this is the case, how can systems leadership be helped by systems thinking?

Systems leadership is concerned with facilitating innovation by bringing together a network of organisations. These then collaborate between themselves and with other stakeholders to deliver some kind of service, influence a policy outcome or develop a product that couldn’t have been achieved by any one of the organisations working alone.

Recognising that a network of organisations can achieve something that emerges from their interactions involves a certain amount of implicit systems thinking. After all, the classic definition of a ‘system’ is an identifiable collection of two or more parts that has properties, or achieves outcomes, that can only be attributed to all of the parts interacting, not any one of the parts in isolation.

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The art of non-decision-making

By Anthony Judge

Anthony Judge (biography)

Do you get frustrated when decision-makers avoid doing their jobs? Do you wish you could identify the techniques they use to avoid making decisions so that you can better hold them to account?

Here I identify 14 aspects of the art of non-decision-making based on my experience serving in, and observing, a range of international organisations.

1. Definitional games: This is the process of defining categories in one way in one document or organizational unit, and then defining them in another way elsewhere or at some later time. The art is to use this approach to obscure opportunities or to selectively advance particular strategies. At the same time competing definitions may be used to justify apparently incompatible strategies.

2. Neglected or repressed categories: This approach is familiar to those who experience discrimination, whether in terms of race, gender, age, intelligence, class or culture.

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Investing in change through research funding

By Petra Lundgren

Petra Lundgren (biography)

How do funders think about investing in research that is intended to lead to change?

This blog post is written from the perspective of a research funder. More specifically it is based on reflections and lessons learned during five years managing and directing strategic research programs at a not-for-profit foundation, investing in science that would benefit the health and resilience of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Our funding mandate was to include research in a larger body of work towards a broader vision of change. This therefore provided the basis of my work and helped me shape the view that the funder has a big and critical role to play.

In the research that my organisation funded, it was important to both define and deliver impact beyond that of classic academic achievement. This requires broader engagement, consultation and co-design considerations by funders and researchers alike.

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Addressing societal challenges: From interdisciplinarity to research portfolios analysis

By Ismael Rafols

Ismael Rafols (biography)

How can knowledge integration for addressing societal challenges be mapped, ‘measured’ and assessed?

In this blog post I argue that measuring averages or aggregates of ‘interdisciplinarity’ is not sufficiently focused for evaluating research aimed at societal contributions. Instead, one should take a portfolio approach to analyze knowledge integration as a systemic process over research landscapes; in particular, focusing on the directions, diversity and synergies of research trajectories.

There are two main reasons:

1. since knowledge integration for societal challenges is a systemic and dynamic process, we need broad and plural perspectives and therefore we should use a battery of analytical tools, as developed for example in research portfolio analysis, rather than a narrow focus on interdisciplinarity.

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