Basque Sandbox. Gender in Collaborative Governance with Dr. Miren Larrea

Our new sandbox in the Orkestra partnership with AR+ is the result of a series of processes that have been evolving very organically since 2018

This partnership began to emerge in alchemical / developmental friendship as  Hilary Bradbury and Miren Larrea reflected on  reconceptualizing the role of gender in action research as a process of first-person action research for second person action researchers

Then came an experiment with a focus on leadership development in support of a new and developmental political culture in the Etorkizuna Eraikiz Think Tank on competitiveness. It is here that Naiara Goia, Director of Arantzazulab, joined Hilary and Miren. In their discussion of the differences between old and new political cultures, gender – and specifically the potential power of overlooked positive feminine virtues – emerged as a strong attractor of a new culture.

When Miren joined Arantzazulab for a research stay, she met Ione and Ane. They discussed Miren’s latest writing, and again considered gender to be an important element when considering collaborative governance.

All acknowledged that collaborative governance requires strong facilitation, however all also saw that facilitation had become feminized in a negative way and at its worse, was coming to be discounted as “women’s service work,” rather than a crucial component of cultural revitalization. Their experiences of facilitation, they realized, not only had implications regarding gender equality, but also for the sustainable effectiveness of policy making efforts. So they initiated a project to generate awareness on the relationship between feminization of facilitation, collaborative governance and policy for the Basque Country.  Awareness improves the conditions for transformation towards more egalitarian and effective policy making. With this aim, three more action researchers from Orkestra joined in, Miren E., Naia and Claudia.

Thinking of the next iteration of this experiment as a shared sandbox is a way to conceptualize our ongoing  experiment as the next step in this process together. The aim is to gather action researchers with facilitative experiences  who are willing to share their first-hand experience of how gender relates to facilitation. We may therefore consider the sandbox as another process of action research for transformations, with special attention to issues of care, leadership as guidance and nurturance, whole systems thinking and feminist economics among other matters that pertain to political agency.

The sandbox is an elaboration of relational space in which Hilary, Miren, Naiara, Ione, Ane, Miren E., Naia, Claudia – and those who join us – may deepen their understanding of what each brings to the experiment; it’s a conceptual space in which to learn and reframe the connections among gender, facilitation, and collaborative governance; and an experimental space in which to facilitate improved action research and collaborative governance with political actors in the Basque Country. Stay tuned!

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