A responsible approach to intersectionality

By Ellen Lewis and Anne Stephens

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1. Ellen Lewis (biography)
2. Anne Stephens (biography)

What is intersectionality? How can it be used systemically and responsibly?

When you google the term over 66,400,000 results are returned. It is a term used by government and businesses, as well as change agents. But is it helpful and are there ways that we should be thinking about intersectionality and its inclusion in our everyday lives?

After describing intersectionality, we introduce a framework for systemic intersectionality that brings together issues that arise within three social dimensions: gender equality, environments and marginalised voices. We refer to this as the GEMs framework.

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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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Understanding diversity primer: 10. Advanced considerations

By Gabriele Bammer

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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.

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Understanding diversity primer: 9. Team roles

By Gabriele Bammer

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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.

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Understanding diversity primer: 8. Personality

By Gabriele Bammer

primer_diversity_8_personalityWhat is a useful way of understanding personality and why is it important? How could personality affect how problems are framed, understood and responded to? How does personality affect how well those contributing to the research work together?

Personality is one of the most evident ways in which people differ. A useful way of coming to terms with this aspect of diversity is to focus on traits that predict behaviour. The HEXACO model is considered to be valid across cultures and focuses on 6 traits:

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Understanding diversity primer: 7. Culture

By Gabriele Bammer

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How can we begin to understand cultural diversity? How does culture affect how problems are framed, understood and responded to? How does culture affect how well those contributing to the research work together?

In this primer, the term ‘culture’ is used to describe the social behaviours and norms of groups in society. There is, therefore, overlap with values, but culture and values are not identical. Cultural differences are commonly thought of in relation to the inhabitants of different countries, but can also apply to occupations, religions, age-groups, members of different social classes and much more.

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Understanding diversity primer: 6. Interests

By Gabriele Bammer

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What are interests and why are they important? How do they affect how problems are framed, understood and responded to? How do they affect how well those contributing to the research work together?

What are interests?

Interests will be familiar through attention paid to ‘conflicts of interest,’ ‘vested interests’ and ‘interest groups.’ Yet interests are challenging to pin down.

The common definition of interests as things that a person is curious about has some relevance for research. It needs to be rounded out by another aspect of interests, which is about having a stake in something and standing to gain or lose depending on what happens to that something.

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Understanding diversity primer: 5. Values

By Gabriele Bammer

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How can differences in values be understood? How do differences in values affect research on complex societal and environmental problems, especially how problems are framed, understood and responded to, as well as how well those contributing to the research work together?

Ten basic personal values

Shalom Schwartz’s theory of basic values (2012) identifies ten broad personal values, which are differentiated by their underlying goal or motivation, as described in the table below. These values seem to be culturally robust.

Overall, each value helps humans cope with one or more of three requirements of existence, namely the needs of:

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Understanding diversity primer: 4. Power

By Gabriele Bammer

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How can an understanding of diversity in power improve research on complex societal and environmental problems? What are the different ways in which diversity in power plays out?

Simply put, there are currently two common ways in which power is taken into account in research on complex societal and environmental problems:

  1. those working with marginalised stakeholders, or otherwise committed to giving everyone involved in the research an equal voice, often seek to eliminate differences in power
  2. those who seek to use their research to change policy or practice generally attempt to find ways to influence those with the power to make those changes.

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Understanding values: Schwartz theory of basic values

By Shalom H. Schwartz

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Shalom H. Schwartz (biography)

Why are values important for tackling complex societal and environmental problems? Can personal values that are robust across cultures be identified? Can these personal values help explain conflicts in values?

Six main features of values

All values have six features in common and these illustrate why values are important in researching and acting on complex problems.

1. Values are beliefs linked inextricably to affect. When values are activated, they become infused with feeling.

2. Values refer to desirable goals that motivate action.

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Understanding diversity primer: 3. Perceptions of good research

By Gabriele Bammer

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How do different perceptions arise of what makes for ‘good’ research? How can researchers come to understand such differences and their impacts on how problems are framed, understood and responded to, as well as how they affect the ability of those contributing to the research to work together?

Differences arise because training in a discipline involves inculcating a specific way of investigating the world, including which types of questions are worth addressing; legitimate ways of gathering, analysing and interpreting data; standards for validation; and the role of values in the research process. Educating someone in a discipline aims to make the discipline’s specific approach to research ingrained and tacit.

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Understanding diversity primer: 2. Mental models

By Gabriele Bammer

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What are mental models and why are they important? How do they affect how problems are framed, understood and responded to? How do they affect how well those contributing to the research work together?

Mental models are a person’s understanding of the world and how it works, and are unique to each person. They exist in a person’s mind as a set of small-scale simplified models about different aspects of reality that are functional but necessarily incomplete.

Mental models apply to all aspects of reality ranging from concrete objects such as a ‘chair;’ to abstract concepts such as ‘trust;’ to geographical locations such as ‘Sydney;’ to connections, interconnections and causal relationships; and to simple and complex situations.

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