HUMAN INQUIRY AS DISCIPLINE AND PRACTICE
I argued in the previous chapter that future participation can be seen as a process of knowing that emerges from the dialectic of original participation and unconscious participation; and I touched on some of the qualities that I believe will characterise this process of knowing. I now wish to show how the process of human inquiry can be seen as a discipline through which forms of future participation can emerge.
A discipline is a method or a training, a set of rules, exercises or procedures which educate a person toward particular ways of being and doing. As I engage with a discipline I freely consent to abide by its practice rules as a process of inquiry into both the discipline and its teachings. In doing this I commit myself to a process of liberation
A discipline in this sense is in some ways similar to a paradigm as described by Kuhn (1962); "paradigm cases" exemplify a way of seeing and a method of investigation, and are a means by which students are initiated into the perspective of a world view. But usually a paradigm is taken as a purely intellectual structure, while the notion of discipline has a wider connotation. A discipline is a practice that develops mind body and spirit: it draws attention to intuitive or spiritual questions of purpose and meaning; to intellectual questions of understanding; and to practice questions of behaviour; and it places these in the context of the practitioners physical and social environment. Further, a discipline is a practice that is necessarily self-transcending, for while the initiate may productively "follow the rules", the mature practitioner uses rules in order develop a quality of attention and behaviour which, while in a sense born out of the practice and its rules and nurtured by them, moves beyond them.
In my work as an inquirer and a teacher I have drawn on three approaches to collaborative experiential inquiry which I see as clearly articulated and exemplified in practice: co-operative inquiry, participatory action research, and action inquiry (Reason, 1994). I shall briefly introduce each of these to the reader and show how each can be seen as a dscipline which can reach toward a form of future participation.
The idea of co-operative experiential inquiry was first presented in 1971 by John Heron, who later set out a full account of the philosophical case for the method and described its systematic practice (Heron, 1971, 1981a, 1981b). This has been extended and developed over the past twelve years (particularly in Reason, 1988; Heron, 1992; Reason and Heron, forthcoming 1994).
Co-operative inquiry is based first on the assumption that persons are self determining. A person is a fundamental spiritual entity, a distinct presence in the world, who has the potential to be the cause of his or her own actions. To actualize this capacity and become fully a person is an achievement of education and self-development. It involves learning to integrate individualising characteristics with a deeper communion with others and the world (see Heron, 1992, Chapter 3).
A person's intentions and intelligent choices are causes of their behaviour; they are self-determining. If the behaviour of those being researched is directed and determined by the researcher, the research is being done on them and they are not present in the research as persons. One can only do research with persons in the true and fullest sense, if what they do and what they experience as part of the research is to some significant degree directed by them. So persons can only properly study persons when they are in active relationship with each other, where the behaviour being researched is self-generated by the researchers in a context of co-operation.
This means that all those involved in the research are both co-researchers, who generate ideas about its focus, design and manage it, and draw conclusions from it; and also co-subjects, participating with awareness in the activity that is being researched. One of the critical differences between co-operative experiential inquiry and orthodox research is that for the former the primary source of knowing, and thus the primary 'instrument' of research, is the self-directing person within a community of inquiry, and method is a secondary expression of this; whereas for the latter, method is primary and the subjects are subordinate to it.
The second important starting point for co-operative inquiry is an an extended epistemology including at least three kinds of knowledge: a) experiential knowledge gained through direct encounter face-to-face with persons, places, or things; b) practical knowledge gained through practice, knowing 'how to' do something, demonstrated in a skill or competence; and c) propositional knowledge, knowledge 'about' something, expressed in statements and theories. In research on persons the propositional knowledge stated in the research conclusions needs to be grounded in the experiential and practical knowledge of the subjects in the inquiry. If the concluding propositions are generated exclusively by a researcher who is not involved in the experience being researched, and are imposed without consultation on the practical and experiential knowledge of the subjects, we have findings which directly reflect neither the experience of the researcher nor of the subjects.
Recently Heron (1992) has clarified the additional notion of presentational knowledge by which we first order our tacit experiential knowledge of the world into spatio-temporal patterns of imagery, and then symbolize our sense of their meaning in movement, sound, colour, shape, line, poetry, drama and story. The development of presentational knowledge is an important, and often neglected, bridge between experiential knowledge and propositional knowledge.
These two principles—the person as agent and the extended epistemology—are realized in the process of co-operative inquiry. In traditional research, the roles of researcher and subject are mutually exclusive: the researcher alone contributes the thinking that goes into the project, and the subjects contribute the action to be studied. In co-operative inquiry these mutually exclusive roles are replaced by a co-operative relationship based on reciprocal initiative and control, so that all those involved work together as co-researchers and as co-subjects. Of course it takes take time, skill and hard work to establish full, authentic reciprocity, as is demonstrated in the examples in Part Two of this book.
Co-operative inquiry can be seen as cycling through four phases of reflection and action, although it should be noted that the actual process is not as straightforward as the model suggests: there are usually mini-cycles within major cycles; some cycles will emphasise one phase more than others .
In Phase 1 a group of co-researchers come together to explore an agreed area of human activity. They may be professionals who wish to develop their understanding and skill in a particular area of practice; women or members of a minority group who wish to articulate an aspect of their experience which has been muted by the dominant culture; they may wish to explore in depth their experience of certain states of consciousness; to assess the impact on their wellbeing of particular healing practices; and so on. In this first phase they agree on the focus of their inquiry, and develop together a set of questions or propositions they wish to explore. They agree to undertake some action, some practice, which will contribute to this exploration, and agree to a set of procedures by which they will observe and record their own and each other's experience.
Phase 1 is primarily in the mode of propositional knowing, although it will also contain important elements of presentational knowing as group members use their imagination in story, fantasy and graphics to help them articulate their interests and to focus on their purpose in the inquiry. Once the focal idea—what the inquiry is about—is agreed, Phase 1 will conclude with planning a method for exploring the idea in action, and with devising ways of gathering and recording data from this experience.
In Phase 2 the co-researchers now also become co-subjects: they engage in the actions agreed and observe and record the process and outcomes of their own and each other's experience. In particular, they are careful to notice the subtleties of experience, to hold lightly the propositional frame from which they started so that they are able to notice how practice does and does not conform to their original ideas. This phase involves primarily practical knowledge: knowing how (and how not) to engage in appropriate action, to bracket off the starting idea, and to exercise relevant discrimination.
Phase 3 is in some ways the touchstone of the inquiry method: it is the stage in which the co-subjects become fully immersed in and engaged with their experience. They may develop a degree of openness to what is going on so free of preconceptions that they see it in a new way. They may deepen into the experience so that superficial understandings are elaborated and developed. Or they may be led away from the original ideas and proposals into new fields, unpredicted action and creative insights. It is also possible that they may get so involved in what they are doing that they lose the awareness that they are part of an inquiry group: there may be a crisis which demands all their attention, they may become enthralled, they may simply forget. Phase 3 involves mainly experiential knowing, although it will be richer if new experience is expressed, when recorded, in creative presentational form through graphics, colour, sound, movement, drama, story, poetry, and so on.
In Phase 4, after an agreed period engaged in phases two and three, the co-researchers re-assemble to consider their original propositions and questions in the light of their experience. As a result they may modify, develop or reframe them; or reject them and pose new questions. They may choose, for the next cycle of action, to focus on the same or on different aspects of the overall inquiry. The group may also choose to amend or develop its inquiry procedures—forms of action, ways of gathering data—in the light of experience. Phase 4 is primarily the stage of propositional knowing, although presentational forms of knowing will form an important bridge with the experiential and practical phases.
This cycle between action and reflection, between propositional knowing, practical knowing, presentational knowing and experiential knowing, is then repeated several times. Ideas and discoveries tentatively reached in early phases can be checked and developed; investigation of one aspect of the inquiry can be related to exploration of other parts; new skills can be acquired and monitored; experiential competencies are realized; the group itself becomes more cohesive and self-critical, more skilled in its work. Ideally the inquiry is finished when the initial questions are fully answered in practice, when there is a new congruence between the four kinds of knowing. It is of course rare for a group to complete an inquiry so fully.
The cycling can really start at any point. It is usual for groups to get together formally at the propositional stage often as the result of a proposal from an initiating facilitator. However, such a proposal is usually birthed in experiential knowing, at the moment that curiosity is aroused or incongruity noticed. And the proposal to form an inquiry group, if it is to take flight, needs to be presented in such a way as to appeal to the experience of potential co-researchers.
This sequence of phases can be shown in what has become known as the 'snowpersons' diagram (Figure 1) which was originally drawn by John Heron before presentational knowing was fully articulated (Heron, 1981b). An alternative diagram is shown in Figure 2.
— Figures 1 and 2 about here —
A group of people engaged in co-operative inquiry work together through these cycles of action and reflection. In the early stages the cycle may be relatively superficial: the ideas brought to the inquiry may be commonplace, taken-for-granted assumptions, borrowed from elsewhere as it were, and the experience relatively habitual. The group is unformed, relationships are tentative and polite, with little authentic engagement, little challenge of self or each other.
It is quite possible that the inquiry will remain at this level: if the participants do not wish to explore their experience in depth, if they do not experience the group as evolving into a space with sufficient safety for them to begin to challenge themselves or each other, their process may remain superficial. But as the inquiry develops there is also the possibility that the group will deepen into a critical and experimental exploration of their experience. As the co-researchers take an attitude of inquiry into their practice they begin to notice experiences which had been previously tacit, at some level below full consciousness; as they bring these back to the inquiry group, able to stand back and discuss and compare experience with their colleagues, they may discover both that they are not alone, and that others have uncovered different issues in their experience. So the field of inquiry is enriched, experience both deepened and further differentiated. Further, through this process of discussion—supported maybe by drawing, fantasy, storytelling (Reason and Hawkins, 1988), psychodrama (Hawkins, 1988) or movement, all of which can stimulate presentational knowing—the ideas and propositions that frame experience will be developed, providing a stimulus to future activities and potential experiments with new forms of behaviour.
I have used the term "critical subjectivity" to describe the quality of attention that needs to be brought to co-operative inquiry. Critical subjectivity is a state of consciousness different from either the naive subjectivity original participation and the attempted objectivity of egoic unconscious participation. The notion of future participation offers a further articulation of the original idea of critical subjectivity. It develops through the cyclical process of co-operative inquiry, in the iteration between experiential knowing through direct encounter; presentational knowing expressed in patterns of imagery; propositional knowing expressed in concepts and theories; and practical knowing expressed in the skills of living (Heron 1992).
I was able to see this process of developing future participation in an inquiry with a group of primary health care practitioners: medical doctors, an acupuncturist, homeopath, osteopath, and counsellor working together in an experimental multidisciplinary clinic (Reason, 1991). Our purpose was to develop deeper understanding of the process and possibilities of collaboration between doctors and complementary practitioners. The inquiry was structured so that the clinic sessions were held one afternoon a week for three weeks, and in the fourth week the time was devoted to a meeting to reflect on experience to date. All group sessions were tape recorded, and edited transcripts circulated amongst the co-researchers.
I had, of course, discussed the ideas and the practice of co-operative inquiry with the group members, but when the process started no one other than myself had direct experience of such an inquiry. Early sessions were characterised by relatively loose discussions of practice, as group members shared their experience of working together, both the joys and the difficulties; and offered their different perspectives on what was going on in the clinic. As I circulated transcripts of the sessions, attention was focused, sometimes all too painfully, on the interaction between the co-researchers, and helped people attend more closely to what was going on. I suspect that my presence in the clinic, and the questioning I stimulated, helped to remind people that we were engaged in an inquiry project as well as treating patients. And in the reflection sessions, as facilitator of the group process I continually summarised and fed back the issues that arose, helping to keep an account of the developing agenda. After two or three cycles of inquiry, I proposed that we devote some time to identifying the important issues that had arisen in our work together. It was about this time when one of the group members made a comment to the effect, "Ah, now I see! It is out of these discussions that we are having, almost like free association, that we can begin to see what issues are important to us!"
On reflection, I believe it is reasonable to say that as the inquiry developed, the co-researchers moved into deeper awareness of their experience and behaviour of the clinic, and paid closer attention to their experience of each other. The reflection sessions helped them articulate the problems and opportunities of multidisciplinary work. On several occasions we experimented with different ways to work together in the clinic in the light of the discussions. One of the group members later wrote that inquiry project "greatly improved the team's ability to make sense of itself, to unravel and describe its own internal processes and manage its work better"; it was a "lifeline as well as a thread through the maze" in their exploration of interdisciplinary collaboration (Peters, 1994).
In contrast to the loose and unfocused quality of early discussions, toward the end of the inquiry the group was able to develop theory and descriptions of its practice that remained rooted in their experience together. I remember one particular session. I had circulated a draft paper on multidisciplinary practice to the group, a paper I had written which was faithful, as I thought, to the group's reflections. At first, discussion of the paper was polite, but with an underlying tone of dissatisfaction: clearly I had not expressed the group's experience. Then one of the group took up a pen and stood by the white board. "I wonder if we put it like this…", he mused, sketching a diagram and some words on the board. Another person stood up, took the pen, and added some further ideas. Soon the whole group was standing by the board, deep in collaborative development of a framework for understanding their work together.
The paper almost wrote itself (Reason et al, 1992). But more important than this, the process of inquiry helped the group move toward a practice of future participation: while deeply engaged in their work together, they were at the same time considerably more aware of the range of theoretical perspectives which guided their practice. They were more imaginative and playful in their work together and more flexible in their behaviour. This process appears to have continued in the years after the inquiry proper, as evidenced in a later paper reflecting on their practice together (Peters, 1994). I make no claim that we had travelled the whole road to a future participation—and there were many difficulties that I have not reported in this sketch—simply that we made some significant first steps. A similar process of emerging self-reflective consciousness can be seen in the examples in Part Two of this book
Participatory Action Research (PAR).
PAR is probably the most widely practised collaborative research approach. It is important because it emphasises the political aspects of knowledge production and is firmly within the tradition of liberationist movements. PAR draws strongly on Paulo Freire's ethos of Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970), and its practitioners usually work with disadvantaged people, initially in third world countries, but increasingly among the disadvantaged in developed countries. Key references to participatory action research include Fals-Borda and Rahman (1991); Fernandez & Tandon (1981); Hall et al (1982); Tandon (1989); Hall (1993); Park et al (1993). For a comprehensive bibliography see Cancian and Armstead (1993) .
PAR has a double objective. One aim is to produce knowledge and action directly useful to a community —through research, through adult education, and through socio-political action. The second aim is consciousness raising or conscientization, to use a term popularised by Paulo Freire (1970): to empower people through the process of constructing and using their own knowledge, so that they learn to "see through" the ways in which the established interests monopolise the production and use of knowledge for their own benefit. PAR aims to help people move beyond immersion in a parochial worldview and a culture of silence, and also beyond the adoption of a scientific or technical view imported from the dominant culture, and toward the creation of knowledge systems based on people's needs. Bessa Whitmore's work in Chapter Six draws on the spirit of participatory action research.
It is easier to describe the ideology of PAR than its methodologies, because it aims to develop an alternative system of knowledge production based on the peoples' role of setting the agendas, participating in data gathering and analysis, and controlling the use of outcomes. In addition, PAR places emphasis on the emergence processes of collaboration and dialogue which empower, motivate, increase the self-esteem and develop community solidarity. So participatory action research is characterised by diverse methods, many of which will derive from vernacular and oral traditions: a PAR project may include community meetings, song, drama, as well as group discussion and more orthodox forms of data gathering.
Comstock and Fox (1993) provide an account of the experience of the citizens of North Bonneville in the US State of Washington, which shows how knowledge production can develop as a participatory community process. The town was about to be destroyed by the location of a dam built by the Corps of Engineers. The people of the town resisted when told that they would all have to move to other cities, because this would destroy their community, and proposed instead that the whole town be relocated on a new site. The account tells how, in collaboration with students and staff from Evergreen State College, the various "complex external and political social forces" in opposition to this proposal were overcome, how a proposal for relocation was developed through a process of participatory inquiry with the people of the town into their needs and aspirations, how the social and political organization of the town developed in a participatory fashion. In the end not only was the relocation itself accomplished, but citizens became more aware of the value they placed on their community and the community as a whole developed an increased self-awareness and capacity for learning about itself
PAR practitioners use the term dialogue for the process through which this was accomplished. In the case of North Bonneville, dialogue involved gathering the information needed to plan the relocation of the city and at the same time engaging in ongoing discussions with residents so that they could create and discover their own understanding, expression and use of the information:
The data with which to make decisions, an awareness of external forces affecting decisions in their lives, and the self-confidence and capacity to make their own decisions all needed to be developed simultaneously. (Comstock and Fox, p. 115)
The outcome was not only the development of a plan to re-locate the city, but a new level of awareness and competence:
As residents reflected and talked about what they knew about their community, they began to realize the discrepancy between their knowledge of who they were and the very different perspective of the Corps of Engineers and the politicians who wrote relocation laws. They began to define their community as a complex network of social, natural and spiritual relationships. They discovered that the government defined their community as abstract individuals and a quantifiable number of physical artefacts, such as a firetruck and so many lampposts… They realized that the Corps planning was a meticulously designed and carefully controlled critical path for technical efficiency… To the contrary the town's "planning process" was the creation of knowledge about themselves... They discovered that their goal—survival of the social relationships that defined their community—was quite different from the government's goal—to build a powerhouse as quickly as possible (Comstock and Fox, p. 116).
The residents of North Bonneville were thrust by circumstances into the contradiction between their own experience of the worth of their community and their wish that it continue, and the external view that their city was a shack town destined to be destroyed in the interests of efficient electrical power. Out of this contradiction emerged not only a new city, but a new level of understanding and political competence. The discipline of PAR operated at a community level, the process of dialogue helping the residents take some steps towards future participation.
Action inquiry is concerned with the transformation of organizations and communities toward greater effectiveness and greater justice. It has been developed as both a theory and a life practice over many years by Bill Torbert (see especially Torbert 1981, 1987, 1991). Torbert's work develops Argyris and Schon's idea of action science (Argyris and Schon, 1974, 1978; Schon, 1983; Argyris et al, 1985); but his articulation of action inquiry departs from this in significant ways. Action science focuses on the way practitioners construe their behaviour, their implicit cognitive models, and their actual behaviour. Action inquiry, while addressing these, in addition addresses outcomes (measured empirically), and the quality of one's own attention (monitored by meditative exercises as one acts). Further, action inquiry addresses the question of how to transform organizations and communities into collaborative, self-reflective communities of inquiry.
Torbert argues that for an individual, community or organization to practice action inquiry they require valid knowledge of four "territories" of human experience. First, knowledge about the systems own purposes -- an intuitive or spiritual knowledge of what goals are worthy of pursuit and what demands attention at any point in time (and thus also the knowledge of when another purpose becomes more urgent and pressing). Second, knowledge about its strategy, an intellectual or cognitive knowledge of the theories underlying its choices. Third, a knowledge of the behavioural choices open to it —essentially a practical knowledge, resting in an awareness of oneself and on behavioural skill. Finally, knowledge of the outside world, in particular an empirical knowledge of the consequences of its behaviour.
The vision of action inquiry is an attention that spans and integrates the four territories of human experience. This attention is what sees, embraces, and corrects incongruities among mission, strategy, operations, and outcomes. It is the source of the "true sanity of natural awareness of the whole". (Torbert, 1991, p. 219)
Torbert's emphasis is on a form of inquiry conducted moment to moment in everyday life. It is primarily concerned with heightening awareness of the possibilities of this moment, here and now, and thus can be seen as "consciousness in the midst of action" (Torbert, 1991 p. 221). Such consciousness presents the would-be practitioner with tremendous challenges to personal development; and in parallel requires for its full articulation a developed community of inquiry. In exploring this issue of personal development further Torbert draws on the ancient tradition of search for an integrative quality of awareness and on modern theories of ego development, particularly the work of Loevinger (1976) and Kegan (1980), arguing that only those at the later stages of ego development will be able to consistently practice action inquiry.
Thus while co-operative inquiry emphasises a cyclical dialectic of action and reflection, Torbert proposes a consciousness in which action and reflection interpenetrate. The process of action inquiry sets the practitioner right in the contradiction between deep engagement, participation and commitment to the moment; and simultaneous reflection, standing back, self awareness. Thus action inquiry is a discipline relevant to those most deeply committed to participatory approaches to inquiry, and persons who wish to play leadership roles in cultivating this process with others.
To the extent that I have internalized the process of action inquiry it is part of my everyday life, including both personal and professional arenas. In the following paragraphs I offer my reflection of the quality of attention which I bring to my work with collaborative groups.
Purpose. Collaboration and participation are central values in my life. My intent is to act in ways what actualise them in all my relationships, with family, friends, in teaching and in research. This means seeking to create circumstances that initiate and nurture collaboration, which are genuinely educational for all those involved as well as highly effective; and behaving so as to invite others to reciprocate. I recognise that this is not a purpose I can hold blithely, but rather that it has the quality of a lifelong quest, both an inspiration and a struggle. I experience this intention as having a spiritual dimensions, as providing a sense of meaning and inspiration to my life. I believe that if I announce this intent to my fellows and to the wider reality of the cosmos, I will be offered both opportunities and challenges to practice what I preach and to learn from that practice. In its most extended form this purpose is impossible to realize; thus I need also to learn to be reasonably gentle with myself, to forgive the shortcomings of my practice.
A purpose or intention cannot be seen as unitary: rather different purposes will nest within each other. Thus within this general intention to behave in a fashion which will develop participative relationships I will hold at times more specific purposes—to listen carefully or to assert a position; to allow equal time for all participants or to protect the space of one; and so on—according to what I perceive the situation calls for. These more immediate purposes will be derived from the theories I hold and the strategies that I adopt, and they will emerge as I monitor my behaviour and notice what is happening in the external world and the other people which whom I engaged. Thus the four levels of attention are interdependent, it is not possible to describe one without the others; and our purpose may change, moment to movement as new needs emerge.
Holding sense of purpose is quite different from establishing an objective or setting a target, both of which I associate with alienated consciousness and unconscious participation. Within a material worldview our sense of purpose degenerates so it is narrowed down to the material and economic interests. Purpose is far more immediate and organic. Developing the capacity to hold and review intuitive purpose lifts consciousness out of both original participation and unconscious participation. Purpose interpenetrates strategy and behaviour, as it is simultaneously influenced by them.
There are certain disciplines which may help us evolve a purposive attitude. Essential are the basic ways of being centred and calming the mind, of freeing attention from internal concerns and pre-occupations. In my own practice the cathartic discipline of co-counselling has provided a degree of emotional competence, and the physical discipline of T'ai Chi much sense of grounding and centredness. Developing the habit of asking oneself, "What is my purpose?" at regular times of the day has been helpful, as can starting any group session by inviting all present to state their intention for the meeting. More specific disciplines help focus on particular purposes: for example anchoring a purpose in something you wear, an object which is kept on the desk or carried in pocket or purse, so that is presence is a continual reminder. One of my friends sets the hourly time signal on her digital watch so it regularly asks her, "Are you awake?".
Strategy. My intent to behave in collaborative fashion is guided by several theoretical perspectives, many of which I have used for so many years that I experience them as a part of me. I find I use theories which are quite simple to express, usually having no more than four fundamental categories or dimensions, but which I experience as unfolding in complex patterns within those dimensions. One of the theories I hold close to experience is the dialectical approach I have advocated in the previous chapter, and I suspect that all the theories I use have a dialectical quality about them which illuminates process and development rather than static entities.
Thus Torbert's model of action inquiry based on the four "territories" purpose, strategy, behaviour, and the outside world is at one level very simple. But it can be used to explore stages of ego development (1987), showing how at early stages of ego development attention is framed by just one of the four territories, while at later stages the person can develop an attention capable of interpenetrating all four territories, a reframing mind. The four territories also suggest an extended epistemology: we develop purpose through intuitive and spiritual knowing what is worthy of our attention; strategy through conceptual knowing which creates frameworks for understanding guiding action; behaviour through sensory kinaesthetic knowing, the knowing in our muscles and blood which help us develop skill; and we know the outside world through our external attention, through the empirical process of collecting, analysing, and feeding back information. And the four territories provide a guide for moment to moment action, as they are translated into parts of speech: I express my purposes by framing my contributions, making explicit the perspective I adopt; I can advocate strategies as I suggest in broad terms my plans and proposals; I can illustrate these with examples and stories, or more powerfully and analogically through my behaviour; and I can gather data from my colleagues by inquiring how they respond to my proposals, by behaving in such a way that others will join my action inquiry process (Fisher and Torbert, forthcoming)
Another theoretical perspective I have internalized is John Heron's approach to the politics of participative groups (Heron, 1989; 1992, 1993).
Participation… honours the basic right of people to have a say in forms of decision-making. In our view, institutions need to enhance human association by an appropriate balance of the principles of hierarchy, collaboration, and autonomy: deciding for others, with others, and for oneself… Authentic hierarchy provides appropriate direction by those with greater vision, skill and experience… Collaboration roots the individual within a community of peers, offering basic support and the creative and corrective feedback of other views and possibilities... Autonomy expresses the self-creating and self-transfiguring potential of the person… The shadow face of authority is authoritarianism; that of collaboration peer pressure and conformity; that of autonomy narcissism, wilfulness and isolation. The challenge is to design institutions which manifest valid forms of these principles; and to find ways in which they can be maintained in self-correcting and creative tension... (Reason and Heron, forthcoming 1994)
Again, the balance between the principles of authority, collaboration and autonomy is conceptually simple, yet in experience provides a profound basis for understanding the process of group development and a helpful guide for intervention and facilitation.
A third example of theories which frame and guide participative relationship is Randall and Southgate's description of the creative orgasmic group (1980). This describes a creative group process as starting with a phase of nurturing in which the group members are brought together and the task prepared; developing into a phase of energising during which the group engages actively with the task; a peak of accomplishment; and moving to a final phase of relaxing, during which the group winds down from its energetic peak, and puts the finishing touches on its work. This cycle is a life cycle and parallels the human energetic cycle which is expressed in sexuality, in pregnancy and birth, in preparing, eating, and clearing away meals, as well as in the task oriented group. Again, this framework is quite simple, yet it is rich in its descriptive potential. It is also grounded in other sophisticated theories of group and human process, notably Bion's theory of groups (1959), and Reich's approach to the sexual biodynamics of human life processes (1972).
All these theoretical perspectives reach in two directions: they help me develop my sense of purpose and guide my behaviour. Thus as people come together at the beginning of a group project I know they need nurturing, and that a degree of authentic authority will help contain anxiety; I also know that too much authority may create dependence and counterdependence, and certainly will not develop collaborative relationships in the longer term, so I must at the same time be paying careful attention to the emergence of a new phase and new needs.
Behaviour. The development of participative relationships requires, as Torbert has it, "movements, tones, words, and silence—sufficiently supple, attuned, and crafty to create scenes of questionable taste" and to demonstrate the "good taste of collaboration" (Torbert, 1981, p. 149). Such behaviour is both authoritative and democratic, centred and reaching out, charismatic and radically democratic; it is based on a profound self-knowing, on emotional competence and behavioural flexibility. To the extent that I have developed such crafty behaviour it is through the disciplines of experiential groupwork— everything from behavioural feedback, role play and psychodrama through to T-groups and encounter groups; through personal work on psychological distress which brings about rigidities in behaviour—personal development groups, and psychotherapy; and through spiritual work which helps develop a sense of connection our presence in the world beyond the limitations of a "skin-encapsulated ego"—meditation, prayer, retreat. I have applied these disciplines to everyday life with the help of self observation, using audio and video tape recording and the feedback of friends and enemies.
At the time of writing I find myself content with much my behaviour, but also seeking to extend my repertoire to encompass a lighter and more ironic touch at moments of challenge and difficulty.
Outside world. Knowledge of the outside world comes in part from our senses, our ability to notice what is going on as we attend simultaneously to our internal processes. This attention can be enhanced by empirical means such as video and audio tape recordings and systematic information gathering through questionnaires. But maybe the most important external information is hidden from us, since we can never know others' experience directly. I need to know from others how they experience me, and how they respond to me emotionally, and I can only know this if they are willing to tell me—hence the importance of interpersonal feedback. In collaborative groups I try to ensure that the agenda for meetings is devised together so all can influence the intent of the group; I regularly ask, "How are we doing… Is this making sense… is this helpful?" I find myself frustrated and upset in groups where I cannot find out what is going on with others present, large teaching groups and formal settings such as academic Boards. In such settings I feel that I am behaving like a machine with no regulator, lacking feedback as a means of monitoring my behaviour I either over-react or fall into silence. I notice others behave in similar fashion.
This reflection on my current awareness of the four territories of experience paradoxically takes me deeper into a review of my behaviour. Since writing the first draft of the last few paragraphs I have noticed my own deeper questioning in the midst of action, and my increased tendency to articulate this questioning in public. The process of reflection draws attention to practice, which again informs reflection building a consciousness in the midst of action. The discipline of action inquiry is in this process of paying attention to all four territories, initially as a reflection after action, but increasingly in the process of action itself. As Torbert points out, action inquiry can only take place in its fullest sense within a community of inquiry in a community of action, a community of like-minded souls who also encompass enough diversity to offer each other both support and challenge in the development of knowledge in action. Such a community can move toward the establishment of organizational structures and process to provide relevant information concerning the consequence of different courses of action.
Participative contexts for human inquiry.
What does this exploration of the nature of participation, and of a deeply participative worldview, have to say about the practice of participative forms of inquiry? In part, it points to the potential radical difference between inquiry conducted in a participative manner and orthodox objective research: we are not just amending the traditional approach to research so as to treat people better or to more effectively include their experience; we are contributing to the forging of a new consciousness and a new experiential epistemology.
So I suggest that co-operative forms of inquiry conducted in the 1990s and into the foreseeable future hang in a paradoxical situation: they both require the emergence of a future participation for their full realization; and at the same time are part of the secular shift (in Western societies) toward forms of future participation. In Human Inquiry in Action I discussed the way that co-operative inquiry is an emergent process (1988, p. 19), meaning that takes time, skill and patience for full co-operation to develop in an inquiry group. We can now see a wider meaning to that comment: co-operation, participation, is emergent over time in the development of a new societal consciousness.
The framework developed above provides a perspective on the participative context in which we are working. We may be seeking to conduct participative inquiry in a culture characterised by valid or degenerate forms of deep participation or unconscious participation. The process of human inquiry will introduce a dialectical tension through which a form of future participation may emerge.
If the inquiry is located in a context of deep participation, group members will be closely identified with their experience, may tell rich stories with unconscious symbolic content, and will need facilitative help to develop a capacity for critical self-reflection. In degenerate forms of deep participation some form of consciousness raising may be needed to draw participants out of their deeply unconscious patterns: this is often one aspect of the participatory action research approach, since disadvantaged peoples often need to be coaxed out of their learned culture of silence (Fals-Borda and Rahman, 1991). Inquiry based on deep participation will seek rich clarity, to tell stories with resonance, drawing on metaphor and allegory to evoke in the reader or listener as far as possible the experience of participation. We may imagine that the process of participative human inquiry will call forth a deeply grounded reflection, and awareness of form and pattern, an artistry so that stories are told with a greater conscious sense of purpose and impact.
If the inquiry is based in a context of unconscious participation, group members will be strong in analysis and conceptual understanding, able to manipulate abstract concepts and handle quantitative data while relatively out of touch with emotional, imaginal and intuitive experience. They may hunger for participation, and may express this in a non-reflective return to original participation; or they may be unaware of their alienation from participation and thus resistant to its power. They will need help to honour connectedness, intuition, experiential knowing and to integrate these with critical reflective consciousness. The process of human inquiry is likely to enable participants to see through, to deconstruct, their theories, and to enrich and ground the with experiential content.
Only if the inquiry is located in the context of future participation, if the community of inquiry has evolved toward a form of future participation, will a full flowering of collaborative inquiry be possible. We can imagine that such a community would be able to integrate inquiry with everyday life, to continually reflect on how its actions fulfilled its purposes, to create myth and build ceremony which enrich their intellectual understanding and support their life activities, to integrate an appreciation of wilderness with cultural artistic and intellectual creativity.
Thus those who wish to take the path of collaborative research be warned: this is no easy way forward. You and your co-researchers may be attracted to the rhetoric of participation; you may think you are deeply committed to the values of participative relationships. Yet for those us encultured to unconscious participation the leap to a future reflexive participation is immense: there will be doubt and mistrust, there will be disagreement and conflict, there will be failures as well as success. For as Wilber (1980) points out, the birth of a new more integrated consciousness means the death of something of the old. Future participation means the loss of the myth of certainty, the loss of control, the tempering of the rational mind, and learning to trust the wisdom of the unknown other. The disappointments along the way to future participation will test us all.