From the 26th of February to 2rd of March the whole class will be travel to the island Gotland in order to conduct a project field work. The research project is independently designed by us, which is cool, although we will be supervised in the process through consultation meetings.
The aim of the field trip is to get data and investigate social interaction and communication aspects of individuals or groups involved in a potential development or environmental conflict in the county of Gotland!
The best thing was that we all had to come up with ideas of what we wanted to do research about. Some of the issues my classmates considered to do the investigation about were Water management and scarcity, Wind power, Minning industry, Local Action groups, and Tourism.
Choosing a topic and creating groups for the field project in Gotland
Afterwards, we also had to choose a Group name.
There were quite funny ones such as Wind Power Rangers haha. It is not my group though, just wanted to share it!
Today I will share with you the 40 min of “No lecture” we experienced the other day. “Yes!” right?… No, not really. It was confusing! There was just one piece of paper on each table with “instructions for studies of group relations”.
The instructions explained first that there were boundaries between the social system and its environment, and also between groups, pairs, and individuals. Apparently, the exercise was aiming us to investigate the social dynamic of the classroom and to challenge the expectations of the social systems, both conscious and unconscious.
I did not know what it meant, but it was related to the Group research we will soon do in Gotland. Some people moved from their seats, most people continued sat and talked. After the 40 mins passed, we were told by the lecturers that they had written on a piece of paper every “unusual” thing happening in the class in a very precise way like “9:35a.m. one person standing up”. I was surprised. We were expected to do something very unusual, but… what? I wondered.
Being in a classroom you are not supposed to do certain things… However, we expected to have a normal lecture, and yet we behaved as if we were in one when it was not. Thus, I suppose those minutes were all about making a point: Why.
Now I recall yesterday’s lecture about power and the sentence that “All humans take part in the constant reproduction of the way things are”. Also, a lecturer’s example of him biking and carrying heavy waste from a reform to dump it outside the town in the municipal landfill, and saying that somehow he was “being the proof” that things can be done differently. Instead of taking the car, he took the bike. At least for me this all kind of make the point of “Be the change you want to see in the world” that I saw or heard somewhere, someday. I don’t know. Suddenly it does not seem a bad idea to record when you “interact”, “communicate”, and “how” those ideas reached your mind… doesn’t it?
Today the lecture was about how power is framed in planning theory, and the different strategies that facilitators may take, such as Authentic dialogue, Agonism, Radical Action and Instrumental rationalism.
In order to explore the different strategies we did and exercise and we looked at interviews of facilitators. The session concluded with points such as that a facilitator must be able to be aware of power differences, if there is room for influencing, and be aware of the factors playing a role on the process.
Today the lecturer handed out the instructions of an exercise. The instructions included the conflict case background and the description of actors and their roles in the case, such as several landowners, two members of the CAB, and a member of a Conservation Society.
The aim of the exercise was to experience the feelings and struggles that the actor would go through in a discussion about compensation for converting private-owned land into a natural reserve.
First, we met with the classmates who received the same role and discussed how we would back up our assigned position. The fact that we did not know the argumentation which others would use made the discussion exercise quite real. In the end we went back to our role groups and exchanged our experiences! At least in my group, we came to the conclusion that personalities could have influenced how the group members were more passive or aggressive when defending their role’s position!
Today we went through practical examples at the international, national and local level in which conflict appeared. The lecture focused on what you need to know about the situation, the possibilities that you can do something or not, and how to investigate this.
CASE 1. Oil extraction case in Niger Delta. One point made in this case was that, when the facilitator is not local, trust may need to be built before intervening and that it may also be dangerous for the facilitator depending on the context. Due to it is difficult to identify what the NGO can control, such as how to collaborate with local actors or with governments, part of the investigation may need to be focused on understanding the power relationships: who could listen and also make decisions that are respected by other actors.
CASE 2. Law of open access in Sweden. One specific discussion setting was used to exemplify that three criteria, having access to the process, being understood and being able to influence the outcome, need to be met in order to make a discussion process work. One of the criteria, the “ability to influence the process” was not met for one participant, who expressed a point several times without being paid attention to. However, neither the facilitator or other participants could understand that this participant did not believe to have the ability to influence the process outcome. By revising the meeting recordings, the facilitator understood afterward what the participant meant.
CASE 3. Cranes and crop damage, local. This case was used to exemplify how sometimes the local actors do not express frustrations in an explicit way in their requests, and therefore they discussed practical things instead of something like the political agenda for a natural reserve. “The miracle strategy” was mentioned as a possible mean to improve the understanding of their point of view.
It sparked my attention one thing that came up during the class regarding the abilities and possibilities of inclusiveness in decision-making: “ + You can not talk to everyone. – Yes, I know, but the consequence of not talking with everyone is what has caused this problem.”
Yesterday we had to imagine that we were consultants commissioned by a municipality to design a participatory process over a year to handle a complex problem.
In groups, we designed a participatory process that would be run during a year. We had to think about a purpose depending on the study case we received and consider the possible participants involved.
Although the whole design process was a bit improvised, and expectations weren’t very high because it was just an exercise to develop some understanding of what sort of things you need to consider in a collaborative process, groups put effort on it and we presented the proposals to the class.
For example, in the group I belonged to, we aimed to build collaborative capacity among the different social groups and associations in order to reach a collaborative solution for a controversial project of building a road in the area. We had to consider issues like who and how will stakeholders participate in the collaborative process, representativeness of the groups, stages in which they would be involved, and activities in the process. One groupmate had the idea of naming our presentation “The Road to the Road“ and we agreed on it because it sounded quite poetic, doesn’t it?
Some references on methods for participation: method data bases such as http://www.communityplanning.net/ , http://dialogguiden.se/ or a handbooks such as https://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:768134/FULLTEXT01.pdf
This week we started new lectures about how conflict can be defined, and more importantly, how communication influences its development.
The first lecture started off with the class commenting and analyzing an email conversation regarding a request to delete certain files from a database, which seemed less tricked than it actually was! Together we discussed in class what the two participants said to each other, how they formulated their argumentations, what were the possible interpretations that they made and what were the emotions or history behind their statements. Apparently, even if the goal, interest or opinion is the same, the conflict could develop differently depending on the participant’ actions.
Also, we discussed in smaller groups another practical example, in this case, an unfortunate event which occurred within a rural community, and how communication among the members of the community could be reestablished.
It was quite interesting, practical and engaging!
Here is one of the recommended readings for the lecture:
Glasl, Friedrich. 1999. Confronting conflict. A first aid kit for handling conflict. Ch. 1. Help – Conflict. Ch. 5. How conflicts can go downhill. Hawthorne press.
Now that we are back in Uppsala, it is time to prepare the stakeholders’ workshop. The group I belong to is the facilitation group, thus we had to set a schedule, organize and lead the activities, such as presentations, discussions, games, and interviews.
I facilitated a discussion about “How to deal with different priorities, information and limited resources among Green Infrastructure actors?”. It was very interesting to hear from lecturers, students and CAB members’ points of view. Mine and the rest of the activities were focused on the value collaboration has in order to see the whole picture of the landscape. In fact, one of the activities was actually based on using pictures cut into pieces, and the participants had to communicate with each other in different languages or not even speaking to put all pieces together!
Tonight we say goodbye to 2017 and welcome 2018 with open arms.
From this year till the next one, several things will remain. For sure, the home exam still unfinshed. But also some other things, such as learning how to walk on the snow not looking like a pinguin, saying skål when having a beer, enjoying the first blueberry pie and the memory of seeing the magic northen lights. These, although unrelated to the program itself, are part of the experience of studying abroad. Specially, if the country you are living in is one in the north like Sweden.
This is why I want to dedicate the last post of the year to the great opportunity of receiving formal education, to the people making this journey possible and to the process of discovery we are all involved in, inside and outside the university.