Category Archives: research

Unity of New Westminster: Community Research Project embedded in social constructionism

UnityBoardFirstCommunityConversation

Barb (red sweater), Aaron, Liz (purple sweater) and Nova with the Board of Unity of New Westminster.

After some discussion with the Unity of New Westminster Church, Barb Goode, Liz Etmanski and I received a small community research grant to explore and document their congregation, history and future directions.  The grant allowed us to give an honorarium, buy food for gatherings and hire a research manager who kept us organized.   The Taos Institute, which I partnered with in my PhD program, investigates things from a social constructionist lens:

Social constructionist dialogue – of cutting edge significance within the social sciences
and humanities – concerns the processes by which humans generate meaning together.

Our focus is on how social groups and the relational practices within those groups create and sustain beliefs in the real, the rational, and the good.

We recognize that as people create meaning together, so do they sow the seeds of action.

Meaning and action are entwined.

As we generate meaning together we create the future.

In research, this means that we involve those we are “researching” as partners in dialogic ways – they co-construct the questions, they participate in events that allow us a better understanding of the meaning we are continually making together, and of what we might do in the future, together.  It is also important that what we generate can be understood by the general population, and isn’t merely an academic exercise, but leads to actual change that includes the group of research participants.  Other interests of our group are in “inclusive research” (in which people with disabilities are involved partners) and graphic recording and visual facilitation.

unitypathwholeWe used PATH as a way to engage the board in planning for the future, after larger, generative community meetings that explored what mattered to the congregation.

This project began in April 2018, and ended in May 2019 with reports to the Unity of New Westminster Board of Directors, the congregation at their AGM, and to the Taos Institute, who received the report.  Further actions will include some more writing for Taos publications on the project.  To download and read the report, “The Role of the Unity of New Westminster Church in Post-Modern Community; Using social constructionist research for a “future forming” congregation,” click here: UnityResearchReportForDistribution

The research methods here build on those we’ve used in previous community-based research and we have already begun working with a couple of other groups on similar research projects in other areas of education and community services.

Please contact us if you are interested in similar research projects!  Aaron – imagineacircle@gmail.com

UnityWizOfOzLiz

PATH experiments…

2019-03-02 21.20.17

The idea of a “pocket PATH” – a little pamphlet to remind one of the seven steps in a PATH – came from one of our first teachers, Joanne Proctor.  When, years later, the one she’d made was tattered and had been copied so many times it was hard to read it, I decided to make a new “zine” version.

Over the last 23 or so years I’ve done at least hundreds if not thousands of PATHs…  sometimes I think oh it couldn’t be that many but then I remember times when I did a few PATHs a day for a few days and think, well, maybe…

And, still, there’s always something to learn.  In one of the small community based research projects we are working on, thanks to a grant from the Taos Institute, we are following social constructionist research principles – we are working in “future forming” ways with a small church congregation.  We’ve had a great community dialogue and pinned down some themes to follow, and one of the things that has come up is the need for some strategic planning.   In many research methods one would wait until the dust had settled and that slice of reality had been pinned down like a butterfly in a frame before going on.  It wouldn’t really be the job of a researcher to be “helpful”.  The need for a strategic plan might go into the recommendations section…  and one would wish them luck.

But here we are, in relationship, ready to go, so when the idea came up, we offered several strategic planning models that we might work on together.  Liz and Barb, familiar with PATH as a format used for and with people with disabilities for about four decades, thought it would be a great method; the church agreed.  That Barb and Liz can see that the method, almost always used for individuals, can also work for groups, projects and strategic planning, is evidence of their active and thoughtful participation as co-facilitators.   PATH is a great tool – it can be directed towards lives, networks, projects big and small, and can involve almost unlimited numbers of people if that is planned for.  It was developed and continues to evolve with the folks from Inclusion Press.

PlanningWIthLizAndNova

Me, Nova and Liz working on some planning.  A thing that was cool about this was that Liz decided to facilitate, rather than do the graphic recording.  And she was amazing and created such a safe space for dreaming and went directions that were really inspiring.

However, no one in the congregation knows about PATH.  There was a time when I liked the mystery and the way a group discovered the process of what we were doing – I liked mapping it out in fine pencil lines and the tension of the participants as the diagram of the planning, drawn with markers in images, formed a circle, and then an arrow, moving from “now” to a positive and possible future.  It was like a performance!  Tomorrow, however, we need people to quickly understand our method and walk with us as they lead us, moving into planning based on whatever their dream is as a group.

So we decided to distribute a little pamphlet about PATH which I’ve been using in trainings.  You can find a copy of it here, at the bottom of the page, or here, with the link to my chapter from the anthology, Drawn Together Through Visual Practice, edited by Brandy Agerbeck, Kelvy Bird, Sam Bradd and Jennifer Shepherd.  We’ve never tried this before but, at best, it will give people a way to stay on top of where we are in the process.

We will see how it goes!

We’re also getting ready to host another PATH training workshop.  Check here for dates, costs and place.  It’s looking like a really interesting group of people so far!  Come and be part of it.

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art power….

Just read this article on working conditions of London maids and in the context of a day off after three days of teaching drawing and a conversation about prospective dissertation methods, I found Barbara Pokryszka’s art in it so powerful.  Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 12.18.39 PM

Part of the conversation about dissertations was about the importance of including our own stories and, for me, using different modalities.  As in Nick Sousanis’ Unflattening – a book I keep wanting to take on a wild weekend to a cabin by the sea! And he’s teaching a class in Calgary.  *SIGH*

And all of it is caught up in my mind with my recent academic teaching experience and the realization of this focused pedagogy of correctness and writing to the rubrics…  yikes.  Still working through that 🙂

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