This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.

It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.

It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Framing the Systems Practice Framing Question

The last blog post dealt with the Systems Practice Guiding Star and Near Star, both of which are future-oriented. This post will deal with the related Systems Practice idea of a Framing Question. A Framing Question focuses on understanding the system to be analyzed in its current configuration and to be ultimately affected to bring about the Guiding Star.

At this point, we are beginning to seek to understand what creates the forces which maintain the system in its current configuration, without passing judgment on either side. By understanding these forces we may then hope to leverage some of them to move the system towards our Guiding Star. How we do that will be based in part on how we format the Framing Question:

1.  One way is to ask what are the forces that affect the ability to improve the system for everyone?

2.  Another way is to propose you can’t understand how something enables or inhibits a healthy system unless you understand fill in the blank.

However, as one objective is to potentially incorporate Systems Thinking and Practice into democratic processes this post will also deal with framing from the perspective of democratic deliberation though more through Governance through Community rather than elected representatives. This takes the Framing Question a further step as well as expanding its inclusion.

The Kettering Foundation, as part of Governance through Community, recognizes that one of the biggest challenges facing communities is developing the capacity of Working thru Difficult Decisions. Because ostensibly, "Deliberation seems like neurosurgery or something only an outsider can do” this can make some fearful of attempting it.

”The Kettering Foundation has found that sound decisions are more likely to be made when people weigh—carefully and fairly—all of their options for acting on problems against what they consider most valuable for their collective well-being. This is deliberative decision making. It not only takes into consideration facts but also recognizes the less tangible things that people value, such as their safety and their freedom to act.”

Their suggested approach is Naming Framing Difficult Issues for Sound Decisions

”The obvious question is, what would motivate citizens to invest their limited time and other resources in grappling with problems brimming with conflict-laden, emotionally charged disagreements? Generally speaking, people avoid conflict, and they don’t usually invest their energy unless they see that something deeply important to them, their families, and their neighbors is at stake. And they won’t get involved unless they believe there is something they, themselves, must do.”

”These differences don’t necessarily become divisive, however, especially when people recognize that although they don’t share the same circumstances, they share the same basic concerns. In deliberative decision making, people can see that they both agree and disagree. This encourages them to agree to disagree and lessens the likelihood of polarization."

The National Coalition for Dialog and Deliberation (NCDD) asked the question “How might we make our D&D work more equitable, inclusive and empowering?” One of their objectives involved Framing which for them meant ensuring that the community is the key framer of the issue(s).

This was seen, however, while a civic issue, not a priority one. It was connected by systems maps through (Kumu) clustering to similar concerns from the categories of access, trust, and barriers.

The priority NCDD issue to which it was connected was “Celebrate individuals who have opposing views rather than attempting to marginalize them”. Taking their concerns of equity, inclusion, and empowerment to an individual human level.

Another resource, the Community Tool Box, by the Center for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas, featured in Community Tech Tools and Healthy Cities pages of the NCP wiki discusses framing and reframing more in terms of initial implementation, having the idea accepted.

Frame a powerful question”, a Deloitte Insights article, has us ask questions that focus on the learning opportunity and that can provoke and inspire others to change the game for longer-term results.

The following are the Framing Questions for the last three Systems Practice projects. Each is uniquely associated with its particular project but they also differ in their scope and boundaries as well as whether they focus on institutional factors or are more people focused.

For the “Last Mile Food Truck Feeding the Unsheltered Homeless” project the Framing Question was:

“What are the factors and their relationships in the "Access to Food(Healthy) system" and in the environment that are lacking for the homeless population and that would determine the real impact of the food truck on getting people back into the community once introduced?

As part of this question we will also be asking:

1. What prevents those struggling with homelessness from accessing available Food(Healthy) resources?

2. What prevents Food service providers from accessing their target demographic (homeless, or those who are unstable and threatened with homelessness)?”

For the Plastic Pollution project, the team leader came up with the more succinct final version of the Framing Question.

”What forces account for the current levels of plastic pollution in Bangkok?”

Our course catalyst for the project, Yeu advised us:

“The framing question can be more targeted towards discovering the forces at the bottom of the iceberg, i.e. the beliefs and perceptions of stakeholders. Here in also lies the crux of the direction that your guiding star can provide”.

Tying it back to the Guiding Star and potentially expanding the inclusion of a greater number and diversity of stakeholders. If this can't be accomplished in the initial stages of the Systems Practice project, it could be at later stages even after completion of the course.

How you frame a system and how others see you framing it influences how those others will interpret it, even if you didn’t use either Systems Thinking or Systems Practice to build it.

In the blog post A Second Look at Neoliberalism with a Community Face and Asset Based Community Development, a particular Scottish perspective saw ABCD efforts as framing notions of civil society and citizenship as being separate and independent of any notion of state responsibility (though not removed from as the article’s authors state), thereby promoting privatization of public life. A position totally at odds with ABCD’s own perspective of itself.

Although NCP wrote in opposition to the Scottish perspective, it still demonstrates the importance of the Framing Question being asked of the system you are investigating, even after the Systems Practice course is completed.

Our Framing Question for Jerusalem Vision is:

“What forces encourage or discourage interaction, trust, and understanding between members of the different communities?”

Some of the factors involved in the system were framed as “Tribalism," which could be seen as controversial though it could be pointed out that tribalism exists in American politics and other areas of the world. As for framing the question within the current geopolitical situation our team leader Yoel, the only one of us to actually live within the system in question advised us to avoid pie-in-the-sky thinking as what we are addressing is a different model of rights/privileges/collaboration than found in the Western democracies.

“The West cannot come into the Middle East (e.g., Iraq) and expect a millennium of entrenched religious and social conventions to change overnight to mirror its Western cultural values and beliefs. There has to be a middle ground where the West's positive values meet the East's traditions, customs, and mores and find a synthesis that embodies the best of both worlds without relinquishing the benefit of either!”

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