Being a civic practitioner; the civic literacy component of professional practice Phil Harington , University of Auckland, New Zealand Practical Learning Conference Edinburgh 2008
Evidence of a growing debate about the capacity for social services & professional practice to achieve civic or transformative goals. <ul><li>‘ New’ professional identities; - vocational, recognition of multiple stakeholders, capacity for critique, ethical knowledge, empirically robust, policy and advocacy roles, values peer review/supervision, willing to take ‘positions’ seek alliances. </li></ul><ul><li>Expectations by ‘outsiders’ that professions are agents, not ‘docile’ or self absorbed. Citizens expect proactive responses to claims for service; funders and service managers construct goals about outcomes, optimal delivery, effective practice. </li></ul><ul><li>The development of technologies that support information sharing, alternate locations for organisation and power, different forms of identity formation. How do professions respond? </li></ul>
An example, <ul><li>The promise of social development: </li></ul><ul><li>… branded by sociology as ‘third way politics’, has become a policy orientation centered on local innovations, self-reliant communities, building capacity, fostering cultural and social traditions, affirming ‘local’ identity and encouraging diversity.’ </li></ul><ul><li>The notion of capacity building suggests </li></ul><ul><li>The skills locked in professions can be liberated into diverse sites, forms, practitioners. </li></ul><ul><li>Knowledge shared will invigorate civic identity and agency </li></ul><ul><li>The transfer of knowledge into sites of development is a skill. It may render a different professionalism – the semi professional. </li></ul><ul><li>Services will deliver ‘capacity development’ through localized forms of organization, contract. </li></ul><ul><li>Work occurs under managerial, political & performance scrutiny </li></ul><ul><li>The generation of a shared interest in evaluation, reflection, learning, & ‘professional development’. </li></ul>
Such activity occurs frequently <ul><li>in contexts defined by economic hardship, ethnicity, age, gender, family form, exposure violence, housing and education risk, location etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Where conventional wisdom has proven to be ineffective, social dynamics are intractable and ‘real’ shifts in power or respective identities have been negligible. </li></ul><ul><li>Orthodox practice is expensive, resistant and resisted, bureaucratic and contested. Diverse agendas exist for service and civic innovation </li></ul><ul><li>Theory of prevention, and self-determination find favour over primary and secondary intervention and generic responses. </li></ul><ul><li>Political management has maintained a contract and surveillances role, enabling local infrastructural development </li></ul>
Such work comes at a time when professions are <ul><li>Finding their way back, if gingerly, from the ‘de-professionalisation’ experience of neo-liberalism </li></ul><ul><li>Finding space for consumer participation in complaints procedures, lay input, advocacy roles, alliance building on moral grounds </li></ul><ul><li>Eschewing the ‘heroic’ stature for an approachable face </li></ul><ul><li>Seeking a broader demographic membership </li></ul><ul><li>Refining disciplinary tenants so that knowledge is made accessible, shared, ethically/empirically produced, peer reviewed, </li></ul><ul><li>Cultivating defences against hollowed out or captured practice, and </li></ul><ul><li>Seeking a public profile; takes a role in public debate and garners legitimacy. </li></ul>
The argument for civic literacy <ul><li>Delaying an attempt at definition for the time being, civic </li></ul><ul><li>literacy seeks to draw attention to; </li></ul><ul><li>The centrality of communication skills in the performance of practice </li></ul><ul><li>The idea that there are multiple literacies in a professional setting – many narratives, silo audiences, contested interfaces </li></ul><ul><li>The role of practice as a site of critical opportunity – at this site knowledge has its most immediate implication for application. Knowledge at that point needs to be current, accurate, adaptable and heard. </li></ul><ul><li>At which point the powers of observation by a trained mind should beat their most acute. The empiricism of the moment is the best learning for future practice. </li></ul><ul><li>Citizens rely on practitioners at the point where their civic opportunities are otherwise at risk. A practitioner ‘sees’ the event repeatedly, the citizen experiences the need periodically. </li></ul><ul><li>We should expect practitioners to have the literacy skills, in their communication, their analysis, positions of power, and reciprocity to render transformative outcomes. </li></ul>
Elsewhere I have caste these as … <ul><li>The capacity for straight talking in the sites of civic debate </li></ul><ul><li>Locating decision making where it resides/belongs </li></ul><ul><li>Conversant with the ‘narratives’ of locations and sites </li></ul><ul><li>Observing and telling the stories of power </li></ul><ul><li>Recognising the silent, masked or topical or fad-like. </li></ul><ul><li>Drawing the options into the light – theorising & strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Literacy in the disciplinary ‘promise’ – what it can do, what works/failed, comparative learning, what's in the literature </li></ul><ul><li>Aptitude with ‘others’ - different audiences/publics </li></ul><ul><li>Celebrating – markers of the contribution and pace </li></ul><ul><li>Building a shared knowledge. </li></ul>
My current research interest; <ul><li>To explore the constructs of practitioners working in work with high civic aspirations </li></ul><ul><li>To identify any notions of emergent practitioner or professional identity </li></ul><ul><li>To spot any validation of a semi-profession notion adopted as a way to negotiate, negate or reduce any layering of power relations in practice </li></ul><ul><li>To consider curriculum requirements for civic literacy and practice with civic aspirations. </li></ul>
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