Develop a culture of equal value and respect for all disciplines.
For shared learning to truly be effective, all those contributing knowledge must feel valued and respected – they must feel like equals at the table.
Research shows that we pay attention to what we value. Thus, creating a mindset or organisational culture in which other disciplines and other organisations are valued for the different knowledge they bring is a pre-requisite to shared learning.
How this principle was used in AdaptNRM
A very important first step AdaptNRM takes to achieve this is foregoing stereotypical scientist-practitioner interaction, where scientists are expected to act as knowledge providers and practitioners to be passive listeners. Instead, the foundations of the project were laid by scientists listening to NRM planners. The AdaptNRM engagement team attended multiple meetings and workshops during the first year of the project with the sole aim of getting to know individual NRMs better.
This proved to be a vital step in our ability to build relationships and trust among NRM planners and other researchers as it was important for us as a team to be recognised as not ‘pushing science’. It was our first step in demonstrating how we valued the NRM discipline as an equal body of knowledge. The knowledge we gained from listening to NRMs about how they work, what stage of adaptation planning they were in, and what their priorities were at the time, helped the team begin the process of designing appropriate engagement strategies with NRM for the development of our products.
Ideas for how you can apply this principle
NRM groups are adept at working with stakeholders and many NRM groups have been encouraging user-needs led processes, where significant investment in working together as equal collaborators is worthwhile. Care must be taken though that this is not taken lightly; many ‘engagement’ and ‘user-needs led’ projects abound, but staying true to equality of disciplines is not easy. Ideas for fostering a culture of true equality and respect include:
- planning short meetings with stakeholders or researchers with the sole purpose of listening to each other
- considering small secondments in other organisations (even just shadowing others for a day or so) to gain respect for what others do
- setting up a strong, boundary-spanning governance entity (a group of people or an individual) who has this philosophy at heart and who is able to provide guidance when difficult situations arise