Ethics of participatory process, in relation to linking environment, science, and action

Notes from a discussion group at “Linking Ecology and Ethics for a Changing World: Values, Philosophy, and Action,” 14th Cary Conference
Facilitated by Peter Taylor (using tools from Taylor and Szteiter 2010)

Special emphasis in initial proposal to the conference organizers about the discussion group:

  • “…the challenge of bringing into interaction not only a wider range of researchers, but a wider range of social agents, and… the challenge of keeping them working through differences and tensions until plans and practices are developed in which all the participants are invested” (Taylor 2005, 199)

Take-home:

  • “Participants always know a lot about the topic at hand, so bring that to the surface and acknowledge that” -> Think (write for 2 minutes about topic of this discussion group), Pair, (Share to larger group)
  • Process is the (primary) product (-> review this wikipage and links)
    • Positive experience of the processes -> possibility that participants adapt the tools to their own settings
  • Provocative claim: Ethics is not possible without participatory processes
  • Works in progress: Synthesizing an ethical framework from diverse contributions

Session 1
Starting principles for participatory processes

  • 1. Facilitators (“leaders”) shouldn’t try to do so without arranging assistants and support.
  • 2. Participants always know a lot about the topic at hand, so bring that to the surface and acknowledge that.
  • 3. Respect is the first objective, on which basis participants take Risks that lead to Revelations (new insights) and get Re-engaged with our work and lives (Taylor et al. 2011)
  • 4. Don’t leave any session without taking stock of where we have come (individually and collectivity)
  • Guided Freewriting starting from “When I think about the questions I have about participatory processes around environment, science, ethics, action, what comes to mind includes…”
  • Share in pairs our hopes for the discussion group.
  • Autobiographical introductions: 5 minutes each to convey how you came to be the kind of person who would invited to this Cary conference and join a discussion group on ethics of participatory process.
  • Share in pairs “connections and extensions” (i.e., things we didn’t include that we might have)
  • Two assistants arranged to confer with facilitator about next session
  • Closing circle: “one thing you’re taking away from this session to chew on” (audio)

Session 2

  • Let’s not leave the conference without giving ourselves a chance to explore what sense(s) of “ethics” can inform participatory process in relation to linking environment, science, and action, or not -> Dialogue process on this issue (90 minutes)
  • In small groups, rapid creation of a Program for Developing an ethical framework for participatory processes that integrate environmental concerns, ecological science, values, and action, with special attention to interaction among diverse social agents (20 minutes)

Homework for session 3 (see link below)
Session 3

  • Synthesizing activity: Developing an ethical framework for participatory processes that integrate environmental concerns, ecological science, values, and action, with special attention to interaction among diverse social agents
  • Closing circle: “one thing you’re taking away from these sessions to keep developing” (audio)

Follow up?
Finish synthesis activity and share results
Other, to be determined by email exchange
Sources
Taylor, P.J. 2005, Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement. Chicago Univ. Press
Taylor, P.J., S. Fifield, C. Young 2011, “Cultivating Collaborators: Concepts and Questions Emerging Interactively From An Evolving, Interdisciplinary Workshop”, Science as Culture 20(1): 89-105.
Taylor, P.J. and J. Szteiter 2010, Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research and Engagement, manuscript (in form of linked wikipages)

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About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, http://bit.ly/NNN2014). On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012, http://bit.ly/TYS2012).

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