Scholarly practice as a developmental edge. Workshopping with Luea Ritter

Luea Ritter led the AR+ Members workshop in July, a space in which we present and dialogue about our work in convening transformative spaces.

Luea writes…

“My inquiry has been with me for a long time of how to bring insights and embodied experiences from my work on the ground into meaningful language and articulation. While I am well grounded in contributing to eco-social transformation through hosting and stewarding long-term and intentional work fields, I want to surface the HOW we do WHAT we do, find articulation and (in)visible reference points for what happens and explain the unfolding processes.

As a larger context for my inquiry, I’m bridging into a scholarly practice, that has not been part of my path to date. Yet I realize this is the work of an action-researcher. In this work I am involved in iterative cycles of co-learning around “How am I – with my work and collaborators – contributing to the refinement and evolution of transformative practices as individuals and collectives? “How am I building on existing bodies of work, schools of thoughts and lineages?”

My questions are:

  • How to make these multifaceted and often implicit and subtle learnings – both individual and collective – explicit?
  • How to distill into meaningful insights, suggestions, and conceptual contributions?
  • How to in turn and further use our insights in wider ways of knowing as important ingredients for navigating complexity?
  • What are the implications for the transition at this time of eco-social chaos?

After presenting an overview of my work and share what made me initially curious to explore, I asked my workshop peers:

  • What are the fields and conversations my work can contribute to?
  • What are important references to orient and relate with?
  • What might I need to be mindful of combining my roles as a leader, practitioner and scholar – especially also in terms of influence and power?

I highlight the different threads that different colleagues mentioned. These may be useful to someone in a similar starting position as me. 

Here’s what I heard from my peer action researchers…

  • Clarity of purpose is super important. Next step seems to be to choose your focus; choose your research question/target. When you know what phenomena you are focusing on, then you know who you want to help and what change you want to bring? Is change always good?! How to rationalize change…is it better than it was, are people better off after this work? Of the 7 themes which do you care about most? One is enough!
  • Focus on what is obvious to you but may be invisible to others. What you perceive as natural may be revolutionary for others. I notice that you speak of kinship; that really stands out.
  • Consider Case Study methodology for writing about your work.
  • Citizen Social Science is a new area being discussed and your building on PAR/ART may be your contribution.
  • Your epistemology is innovative.  It concerns the integration of different ways of knowing could be an interesting focus. This is a new field. There is little work to build on, so you can make a contribution.
  • Meeting scholarly norms is important and useful, e.g., feelings, or I “feel” can be translated/connected to more empirical (objective evidence) language. 
  • Pay attention to what moves you and your own initial questions & conditions: e.g., in the check in you say…”what I know, I know from ground.” Is there a profound research question there. How to know from ground? What is it to be a product of a certain place? What are the practices of knowing something from ground?”
  • Practice and scholarship are identities that need to be negotiated. It can be quite painful as the identities are fluid and presented as polar opposites. Can you lean into the *liminal space.”
  • WRT.  legitimacy of scholarship: You’re not a conventional scholar in terms of tenure track. However, your contribution is possible because you’re using scholarly techniques – i.e., being in the process of inquiry.
  • Struck by your words of “knowing from ground” as different ways of knowing as well as the cutting across boundaries and levels. This is part of what it will take to overcome the problems we face. Therefore, the work to do this – transitioning and crossing boundaries across species, sector, contexts is needed. In the work of a member, they pay attention to how narrative is created (a qualitative technique/narrative inquiry etc.) that can then connect to more established ways of doing (e.g., content analysis).

And a few further thoughts got crystallized. Hilary writes…

“We all struggle with integration, how to be scholar+practitioner. What Luea brings is a fractal of what we are all doing. WorldEthicForum’s and Collective Transitions’s purpose is the purpose of all of us!

As an action researcher, I double down on a few important points that may, I hope, be useful to Luea or others who step to your scholarly edge :

  1.  “What is your focal inquiry.” This sounds simple, even insultingly so, but is very important to tease it out. What is it you want to spend your time on, what is it you want to be known for with regard to supporting others capacity for responding to eco-social crisis.
  2. What do you already know calls your attention “from ground.” I wonder if it’s “kinship.” I wonder if its “coherence” and how these might be related?  Relating them would be exciting! It would be your “conceptual model.” E.g., is the resonance and coherence you speak of is an awareness for people that they are in fact kin?
  3. Show us your use of methods of data collection. Methods makes the difference between practice and scholarship. Therefore, we come to the importance of data collection. It has to be systematic once you have your focal question. To gather date, means e.g. interviews, survey…so you can see change in time. Get other voices in. If you define kinship how are others defining it etc.
  4. Keep your contribution in mind. Will your work help find stability within chaotic moments. Finding moments of stabilization. That would be much at this time of eco-social crisis.     

We hope for an update soon – after a bit more clarity and experimenting!

Luea ended with an image that guides next steps: How to be an eagle (with big picture) and a mouse (on the ground detail) at the same time?!