Dealing with differences in interests through principled negotiation

By Gabriele Bammer

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Gabriele Bammer (biography)

How can the interests of a diverse group of researchers and stakeholders tackling a complex societal problem be understood and managed?

Interests arise when a person has a stake in something and stands to gain or lose depending on what happens to that something:

  • researchers commonly have a stake in advancing their work and careers,
  • stakeholders affected by a societal problem generally have a stake in improving the problem, and
  • stakeholders in a position to do something about a problem generally have a stake in improving outcomes for the problem through their sphere of influence.

Interests relate not only to personal conditions or stakes (self-interest), but also to principles such as reducing inequities and promoting justice.

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Creative destruction

By Keith McCandless

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Keith McCandless (biography)

My favorite part of working with groups is helping people notice and stop counterproductive behavior. We all have self-limiting individual and group behaviors. Of course, they are easier to spot in others than in ourselves. So, finding seriously fun ways to help people discover for themselves what they can stop doing is important.

I use an activity called TRIZ from Liberating Structures. The purpose of TRIZ is to:

  • Make it possible to speak the unspeakable and get skeletons out of the closet
  • Make space for innovation
  • Lay the ground for creative destruction by doing the hard work in a fun way
  • TRIZ may be used before or in place of visioning sessions
  • Build trust by acting all together to remove barriers.

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Replacing conferences with effective online learning experiences

By Maha Bali, George Station and Mia Zamora

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1. Maha Bali (biography)
2. George Station (biography)
3. Mia Zamora (biography)

What options are there for developing effective online replacements for face-to-face conferences? How can these options promote better access for those without funds or freedom to travel? How can they contribute to climate justice?

We share our experience in co-organising (with others) Equity Unbound’s inaugural Mid-Year Festival 2022, aka #MYFest22 (referred to throughout as MYFest), a virtual event that sought to center community and support, and avoid the many pitfalls of online, in-person and hybrid events.

Equity Unbound is an equity-focused, connected intercultural learning network that co-creates diverse, open learning experiences. MYFest was not a conference per se, but was designed to be a three-month-long “recharge and renewal experience” with a “choose-your-own-learning journey” approach, exploring a variety of themes, in our case around equitable learning. In addition, two themes intentionally addressed isolation: “well-being and joy” and “community building and community reflection.”

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Systems thinking in public policy: Making space to think differently

By Catherine Hobbs

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Catherine Hobbs (biography)

Why does public policy go wrong? How can researchers who are systems thinkers begin to create the conditions in which those involved in public policy may flourish within their possible spheres of ‘horizontal’ influence?

The public policy context and why it goes wrong

Jake Chapman’s System Failure: Why Governments Must Learn to Think Differently (2002; 2004) remains a much-quoted report. In his second (2004) edition, however, Chapman reflects that, despite an enthusiastic reception, there had been “very little substantive shift in either policy or management styles within government” (2004: p.10).

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Pause… How art and literature can transform transdisciplinary research

By Jane Palmer and Dena Fam

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1. Jane Palmer (biography)
2. Dena Fam (biography)

What might make us stop and think differently about the ways in which we interact with our environment and others, human and nonhuman? What kind of knowing about acute threats to the natural environment will sufficiently motivate action?

We suggest that art and literature can offer us a pause in which we might, firstly, imagine other less anthropocentric ways of being in the world, and secondly, a way into Basarab Nicolescu’s “zone of non-resistance” (2014, p. 192), where we become truly open to new transdisciplinary forms of collaboration.

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Advancing considerations of affect in interdisciplinary collaborations

By Mareike Smolka, Erik Fisher and Alexandra Hausstein

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1. Mareike Smolka (biography)
2. Erik Fisher (biography)
2. Alexandra Hausstein’s biography

Have you ever had a fleeting impression of seeing certainty disrupted, the impulse to laugh when your expectations were broken, or a startling sense of something being both familiar and foreign at the same time?

As social scientists engaged in collaborative studies with natural scientists and engineers, we have had these experiences repeatedly while doing research.

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Three lessons for community engagement in international research

By Aysha Fleming

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Aysha Fleming (biography)

What’s required for researchers to effectively engage with local communities in international research tackling complex socio-ecological problems?

In a project involving Indonesian and Australian researchers working with local communities to restore peatlands in Indonesia, we identified three key elements for international collaboration with stakeholders:

  1. project design
  2. individual and collective skills and competencies
  3. processes to support knowledge integration.

Project design

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A process for generating new cross-disciplinary projects

By Gemma Jiang

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Gemma Jiang (biography)

What is a good way for researchers in large cross-disciplinary science initiatives, who may not know each other well, to generate viable project ideas?

This blog post introduces a field-tested “double helix” process that leverages the benefits of idea generation by a large group and idea refinement in small groups.

This double helix process is most helpful in large cross-disciplinary science initiatives that meet at least one of the following three characteristics:

  • Tackling wicked problems with both scientific and societal significance
  • Requiring deep integration across multiple disciplines that will eventually lead to new meta-disciplines
  • Consisting of more than 20 core research members.

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Facilitating narratives for knowledge co-production: A knowledge broker’s role

By Faye Miller and Jess Melbourne-Thomas

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1. Faye Miller (biography)
2. Jess Melbourne-Thomas (biography)

How can knowledge brokers facilitate transdisciplinary knowledge co-production and mobilisation? How can a narrative approach contribute to the knowledge co-creation process?

A knowledge broker often sits between different stakeholders (researchers, end-users, policymakers) to facilitate knowledge co-creation and knowledge mobilisation. Their main role is to make evidence accessible, understandable and useful for knowledge users. As knowledge mobilisation is usually experienced by participants as a personal and social activity, a key starting point for facilitating knowledge co-production with different stakeholders is to develop a narrative approach.

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 8. Generating ideas and reaching agreement

By Gabriele Bammer

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What skills for generating ideas and reaching agreement should every researcher involved in stakeholder engagement seek to cultivate? What key methods and concepts should they be familiar with?

The focus in this blog post is on generating ideas and reaching agreement, as well as recognising the “groan zone” between these two phases in a group process. Researchers will have diverse attributes and not everyone will be well-placed to cultivate the skills described here. Having an understanding of the skills can help in choosing the researchers best placed to undertake the stakeholder engagement.

Generating ideas: Brainstorming

For brainstorming to work well, it requires rapid-fire contributions, no holding back or self-censoring of ideas, and no discussion or criticism of the ideas proposed. It often involves a group of stakeholders (or stakeholders and researchers) sitting around a flipchart or whiteboard, with one person writing down the ideas as members of the group say them.

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A tool for transforming resistance to insights in decision-making

By Gemma Jiang

author_gemma-jiang
Gemma Jiang (biography)

Do you encounter resistance from your team members, especially in regard to difficult decisions? How might decision-making processes be better facilitated to generate insights instead of resistance?

I describe a conceptual framework and an accompanying practical tool from Lewis Deep Democracy (2021) that can transform resistance to insights in decision-making processes.

The conceptual framework: Understanding how decision making generates resistance

It is important first to understand the consciousness of a team. If you think of a team’s consciousness as an iceberg, the ideas and opinions that are expressed are the conscious part above the waterline, while those that are not expressed are the unconscious part below the waterline. If decisions are made based only on the team’s expressed ideas and opinions, those below the waterline will likely form resistance. This is often what happens with “majority rules” democracy.

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 7. Listening and dialogue

By Gabriele Bammer

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What skills should every researcher involved in stakeholder engagement seek to cultivate? What key tools for engaging stakeholders should they be familiar with?

In the next two blog posts, I present key skills and tools that are essential for engaging with stakeholders. Understanding these skills can help teams decide who would be best among their members to be responsible for stakeholder engagement. Those involved in stakeholder engagement can also work to strengthen these skills to underpin other useful methods such as surveys, interviews, focus groups and participatory modelling.

This blog post presents skills involved in listening and dialogue. The next presents tools for generating ideas and reaching agreement.

Listening to understand

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