Let’s talk about methodology

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“Let’s talk about methodology” – this rhetorical flourish could be the sub-title of the ALARA conference I’m designing with Susie Goff of CultureShift.

Let’s talk about methodology. As we dive into the exciting business of designing responses to social problems, let’s talk about methodology, so that we can dive deeper and wider and with more curiosity. Before we commit to the hard slog of actually implementing what we design, with its burden of project management , let’s talk about methodology.

The conversation about methodology is high value at the innovating edges of any domain. In the loose network of policy makers, and in the milling market place of policy developers, talking about methodology is gold. Create the space for critical reflection on methodology, and hold it, and you generate designs that actually get into implementation, and that work.

Talk methodology at the start of projects and you have a good chance of sidestepping knee-jerk responses. You’ll get into much more interesting territory. And you’ll meet a lot of interesting people, on their own terms (here, kudos to Kate Auty).

This will all play out in our timetable for the conference, of which more soon. In the meantime, the invitation to the ALARA conference, August 2014, is an invitation to consider methodology for three days. This invitation goes out to policy developers, to those who design and facilitate participatory inquiry – action reseachers, facilitators of action learning, and on and on out to our qualitative research cousins – and to those peoples taking charge of their collective life.

We lean toward policy research and development, and program design, as  collective self-determination, not just inquiry or rational fitting of means to ends.  We are for agency, and recovery of agency is a recovery of community: the two intertwine.

2 thoughts on “Let’s talk about methodology

  1. Yes – methodology is the means by which the hidden discourses of power are made more explicit, more accountable – what’s in and what’s out and why – the means by which the founding presumptions of doing to or doing with – and without are also the seeds of finding what might be…Join us as we explore participatory methodology transparently in the making in our ALARA conferences this year…. Making the political poetic

    • Here’s another entry point: methodology is the way you set about knowing. Any familiar methodology brings presumptions about who has what role in the process of knowledge production; the unpicking and reweaving of these is what can begin in the conversation about methodology.

      But as I have come to undestand it, in conversations with Brenda Downing, ways of knowing are dancing partners with ways of being. Some ways of being (and the things of the world constituted in those ways of being) get more attention and are valued more than other ways of being. They are privileged. They are dominant.

      Methodology is the way you set about knowing, so an explicit inquiry into ways of knowing asks: who gets to speaks? with what voice? about what matters? That brings a more rigourous accountability into the inquiry, and makes the inquiry more participatory.

      There’s a simplictic attitude that participatory inquiry is a kind of free-for-all. On the contrary, it’s about uncovering accountabilties and and respecting accountabilities other than the master/servant, observor/observed relationships with which we are very familiar.

      Susie’s proposition is that honesty and rigour about the assumptions brought to inquiry can be a starting point for creating more just and more effective ways of knowing. And in the dance of knowing and action, that means more just and more effective action.

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