Temporal Conflicts: Exploring the impact of time on working with communities
Workaround: In current version of Panels 3.8, it seems this body field needs to be populated in order for title above to appear. This note is hidden by custom CSS style. Jack Latimer.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 10:00 - 16:00University of Manchester
Often, time is perceived as a single all-encompassing flow. However when working with communities, whether as a volunteer, public servant or researcher the idea that the multiple stakeholders we work with are in the same flow of time is radically challenged. Rather than experiencing our work as a steady progress from start to finish, it is experienced as a negotiation with multiple and conflicting deadlines, dynamics, methods, expectations, speeds and paces. Time becomes something more than a flow between past, present and future. Instead it becomes intertwined with bureaucratic methods of accountability, institutional idiosyncrasies, methods of organisation and, more broadly, the structuring of social relations.
Far from being universal, this conflicting and multiple time is unevenly distributed. The capacity to change, for example, is often cast in a dichotomy between a state representing forward progress, and ‘communities’ conceptualised as static or even backwards. The proper pace at which interventions must occur differs for an ‘austerity’ government that wants quick results and those that need to implement them within communities. While models of success assume that quantitative data can capture the impacts of projects and recommend accurately which interventions should be rolled out nationally. Importantly, despite our awareness of the complicated and contradictory times of communities many of the dominant, institutionally-supported methods of working with them, continue to be indebted to linear models, where an ideal project moves neatly from proposal, initiation, implementation and evaluation.
The purpose of this workshop then, is to reflect critically on the temporal assumptions implicit in dominant methods of working with communities and to explore alternatives. Indeed new ways of working, that respond to the dynamic and complex nature of communities, have been offered in a variety of works including McLeod & Thomson’s Researching Social Change, Westley, Zimmerman & Patton’s Getting to Maybe: How the World Is Changed and Alison Gilchrist’s The well-connected community: A networking approach to community development. We are thus proposing to spend the day focusing on three key themes that will help us articulate some of the problems before moving to a collaborative session looking at ways of responding to these issues.
Format of the workshop
The workshop will include around 40 participants from a range of backgrounds, including academics, policy-makers and community activists. In order to explore the breadth of experiences, and support new collaborations, the workshop will include a variety of session formats. Each of the themed sessions will consist of a series of 5 minute reflections followed by discussion. These lightning talks could take a variety of formats, including the ignite format of pecha kucha. There will also be collaborative, participant-driven session where topics emerging from the themed sessions can be synthesised and explored in greater depth.
We are particularly interested in exploring the breadth of experiences across academia, the public sector and the third sector and so are calling for participants who would be willing to offer short (5 mins) reflections on the following themes, as well as those interested in attending and contributing to the discussions.
- Funding applications, deadlines and speed at which consortia need to be developed. For example what kinds of opportunities are missed because the pace of a funding or commissioning body does not match the pace of the community one is working with (i.e. funding either too fast or too slow)?
- The difficulty of imposing external schedules/deadlines on communities that have their own rhythms and speeds. e.g. Conflicts between need to get work done quickly and slow time of bureaucratic processes e.g. background checks or ethics approvals
- The intense time-pressure experienced by volunteers, researchers and public servants who need to respond to multiple stakeholders in different ways
- Clashes between pace of research and pace of communities and policy makers e.g. research projects often take years while communities and governments can want information ‘now’
- The link between scheduling and power/prestige (e.g. who has to accommodate who when timing meetings etc.)?
- How might the differing paces of various research disciplines interact or counteract?
- Synchronisation and desynchronisation? Between who? For how long? To what effect?
- What are the basic assumptions about time in efforts to ‘intervene’ e.g. when to intervene, how long to intervene for?
- But also do notions of communities as static help justify interventions?
- What methods are available which treat communities, and knowledge about them, as dynamic?
- How might assumptions about time create conflict between different research approaches?
- The temporality of the ‘project’ that assumes a linear trajectory where projects must be outlined upfront and then proceed as planned.
- How to remain able to adapt during the course of a project? Including issues to do with approval processes and funders expectations
- Responding to emergent issues, problems, opportunities not detailed in the original proposal/bid
- Do interventions ignore the history of communities and the past ‘interventions’ they have been involved in? How to acknowledge these histories?
Demonstrating progress/success and accepting failure
- The temporalities of success, achievement and failure
- The ‘it’s too soon to tell’ problem
- Shifting between complex dynamic environments to one where proofs of success are static
- When is a project finished /when is a community ‘developed’?
- Is there a need to retreat from a community to finalise a project? e.g. write up research, complete evaluations
- How to know when it’s time to end a project? What can we learn from failure and knowing when to call it quits? How the drive to continually progress makes failure difficult to embrace and learn from.
How to Apply
If you would like to contribute to one of the panels please send a short outline (250 words max) of your proposed reflection (noting which panel you are applying for) along with a short bio by the 1st of August 2012. A list of participants will be confirmed in early August.
If you would like to attend the workshop please send a short outline of your interest in the topic (250 words max) along with a short bio by the 1st of September 2012. A list of participants will be confirmed in early September.
Contact: Michelle Bastian (firstname.lastname@example.org) CRESC, University of Manchester