Should we be encouraging and training students to challenge dominant practice?

Blog post by Alfredo Ortiz

This blog is in response to David Week’s post last week.

Thanks for these insights David. I also feel the constraints of funder agendas and my colleague Kent is particularly interested in the constraints that control/quantitative evidence movement is generating. At the same time, I have been fortunate to have worked quite a bit with a Belgian NGO/funder a few times in the last 2-3 years that has allowed for critical (rights based) and creative and emergent process, even while espousing results based management and measurement.

As educators though, what should be our message? Should we say “these are going to be the CONSTRAINTS which you must work within”. Should we say: “your job is to PUSH THE ENVELOPE and find ways to support critical change processes, to both educate and subvert conservative donors and development policymakers”? Or should we leave that up to them completely and focus on PROFESSIONAL COMPETENCIES?

I know these questions are loaded, but the bigger problem is we don’t discuss much of this at all, even though these practices and policies are pervasive and will soon be encountered as practitioners enter the field.

Even more interesting, to me, is what drove you and your firm over time to engage in this risky yet rewarding shift that you are attempting. Here, the practitioner is part of the solution so how are we not part of the problem (even within the constraints)? I don’t meant this in your case, but as an open question. Back to my question:

Should we be encouraging and training students to challenge dominant practice?