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 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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Intentional ecology: Building values, advocacy and action into transdisciplinary environmental research

By Alexandra Knight and Catherine Allan

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1. Alexandra Knight (biography)
2. Catherine Allan (biography)

As a society, how do we encourage early and ethical action when building our knowledge and confronting serious challenges?

In this blog post we explore the conceptual framework of intentional ecology and apply it to a case study to illustrate how it deals with the question raised above.

Intentional ecology – foundations and actions

Intentional ecology, illustrated in the figure below, is a new conceptual framework that enables early, applied and relevant integrated action, as well as reflexive and dynamic approaches to implementation of conservation and sustainability measures. It’s a better way of doing science.

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Basic steps for dealing with problematic value pluralism

By Bethany Laursen, Stephen Crowley and Chad Gonnerman

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1. Bethany Laursen (biography)
2. Stephen Crowley (biography)
3. Chad Gonnerman (biography)

Have you ever been part of a team confronting a moral dilemma? Or trying to manage deep disagreements? For that matter, on a more down-to-earth level, how many times has your team tried to settle an agreed file naming convention? Many team troubles arise from value pluralism—members having different values or holding the same values in different ways. Below, we describe problematic value pluralism and suggest steps for dealing with it.

What are values, and how do they cause problems?

Here, we’re talking about a “value” as a desire (conscious or unconscious) that directs a person’s actions. It could be a guiding ideal or a whimsical preference, for example. Most of us have multiple values and over time we have organized them so that they provide us with guidance in most of the situations we encounter.

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Core competencies for implementation practice

By Sobia Khan and Julia E. Moore

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1. Sobia Khan (biography)
2. Julia E. Moore (biography)

How can implementation practitioners – those who are implementing in practice rather than for research – become more effective? How can the pragmatism required to apply implementation science principles to practice be taught and fostered? What are the core competencies of implementation practice?

We conducted a scan of the literature and grey literature and then consolidated six existing core competency documents, covering implementation practice, knowledge translation, and knowledge mobilization. The core competencies outlined across these six documents required some synthesis and re-framing in order to really make sense and resonate with practitioners, particularly to address differences across settings.

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Three ways research perpetuates injustices

By Barış Bayram

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Barış Bayram (biography)

Why is it hard to recognise the full value of a new idea, research finding or other innovation? Why do people fail to properly appreciate other people or things most of the time? Can this help explain why injustices persist?

There is no “invisible hand” that allocates rewards according to capabilities or performance, including ensuring that academic research or social interactions are recognised in terms of scientific or ethical merits.

There are three main patterns causing what I call “unjust appreciation”:

  1. lack of intellectual development to determine values, merits and deserts (ie., just rewards)
  2. cognitive biases and social biases, especially related to status and groups
  3. tribalism, along with power and conflict considerations that rely on cost-benefit analysis.

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How can we amplify impact to foster transformative change?

By David P. M. Lam

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David P. M. Lam (biography)

How can the impact of sustainability and other initiatives be scaled or amplified to achieve transformative change?

There are hundreds of promising sustainability initiatives emerging around the world. A sustainability initiative is, for example, a local food initiative from citizens and farmers who promote healthy and organic food production and consumption. Another example is the installation of solar panels by a community to support the use of renewable energies. Such initiatives provide potential solutions for urgent sustainability problems, for instance, biodiversity loss, climate change, social injustice, and poverty in rural areas or cities.

This blog post is based on a review of the literature to understand how sustainability transformations research is currently conceptualizing the scaling or amplifying of impact from initiatives. Although our focus was on sustainability, the processes are likely to also be pertinent for other initiatives.

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Linking learning and research through transdisciplinary competences

By BinBin Pearce

BinBin Pearce (biography)

What are the objectives of transdisciplinary learning? What are the key competences and how do they relate to both educational goals and transdisciplinary research goals? At Transdisciplinarity Lab (TdLab), our group answered these questions by observing and reflecting upon the six courses at Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD levels that we design and teach in the Department of Environmental Systems Science at ETH Zurich, Switzerland.

Six competence fields describe what we hope students can do with the help of our courses. A competence field contains a set of interconnected learning objectives for students. We use these competence fields as the basis for curriculum design.

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Keys to transformation: Interactions of values, rules and knowledge

By Russell Gorddard, Matthew Colloff, Russell Wise and Michael Dunlop

Adapting to climate change can require profound alterations in environmental management and policy. However the social context of a decision process limits options and resists change, often dooming attempts to adapt to climate change even before they begin. How can decision makers in policy and management more effectively see the institutional and social water they swim in, in order to better drive change?

Values, rules and knowledge (vrk) provide a useful heuristic to help decision makers analyze how the social system shapes their decision context. Put simply, decisions require:

  • knowledge of options and their implications
  • values to assess the options
  • rules that enable implementation.
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Figure adapted from original in Gordardd et al. (2016)

Viewing the decision context as an interconnected system of values, rules and knowledge can reveal limits to adaptation and suggest strategies for addressing them (Gorddard et al. 2016).

Values are the set of ethical precepts that determine the way people select actions and evaluate events.

Rules are both rules-in-use (norms, practices, habits, heuristics) and rules-in-form (regulations, laws, directives).

Knowledge is both evidence-based (scientific and technical) knowledge and experiential knowledge.

Decision context is the subset of interacting subsystems that are at play in a particular decision process. One core idea is that the decision context may exclude relevant values, knowledge or rules from being considered in decisions. Adaptation may therefore involve change in the decision context.

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Russell Gorddard (biography)

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Matthew Colloff (biography)

russell-wise
Russell Wise (biography)

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Michael Dunlop (biography)

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Values, confidence, and time: What researchers should consider when engaging with civil society organisations

By William L. Allen

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William L. Allen (biography)

When researchers want to engage or work with groups outside universities—especially civil society organisations—what should they consider as part of this process?

Civil society comprises organisations—large and small—that are outside of the public and private sectors. These include non-governmental organisations, charities, or voluntary groups.

Three lessons emerged from asking civil society organisations what they would tell academics who want to work with them:

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Whose side are we on and for whom do we write?

By Jon Warren and Kayleigh Garthwaite

Jon Warren (biography)

In 1967 Howard Becker posed the question – to academics – “Whose side are we on?.

Becker was discussing the question during the time of civil rights, the Vietnam war and widespread social change in the US. He sparked a debate about objectivity and value neutrality which had long featured as part of the social sciences’ methodological foundations and which has implications beyond the social sciences for all academics.

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Kayleigh Garthwaite (biography)

What relevance do these ideas have now, in an era when academics and their research are becoming increasingly commodified? Academics are increasingly pressured by their own institutions and fellow professionals to gain more funding, publish more papers and make more impact. Questions of social justice and professional integrity are at risk of being swamped by these forces allied to unscrupulous careerism.

We argue that the question now is not only who academics serve but also who we write for.

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Enabling co-creation: From learning cycles to aligning values, rules and knowledge

By Lorrae van Kerkhoff

lorrae-van-kerkhoff
Lorrae van Kerkhoff (biography)

How do we improve? In the context of sustainable development, we continually confront the question of how we can develop meaningful and positive actions towards a ‘better’ world (social, ecological, economic outcomes) despite inherent uncertainties about what the future holds.

Co-creation is one concept among several that seek to reorientate us from simplistic, largely linear ideas of progress towards more nuanced, subtle ideas that highlight that there are many different aspects of ‘progress’, and these can be deeply contested and challenging to reconcile. Enabling co-creation, then – or operationalizing it – means finding practical ways to work together, to deal with our different experiences, aspirations and expectations as well as the uncertainties of the future.

Co-creation sits within a learning paradigm that suggests engagement, social and mutual learning, adaptation and flexibility are key to enabling action in the face of uncertainty. But how do we think about learning?

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