In my doctoral research Local Place and its Co-construction in the Global Network Society, I noted that the majority of participants put a lot of store on hope, often hope against hope that somehow everything will turn out alright.
I live in Christchurch, a city that is afflicted by extensive seismic activity (see The Christchurch Press). Not surprisingly, people living and working in the city hope 2012 will be more peaceful and less shaky than 2011. However, as much as we might hope the earth won’t move under our feet, we are coming to terms with the fact that the earth doesn’t take any account of our hopes. We have to surrender to the fact that there are some things, like earthquakes, that we can’t control.
However, we can often control our response to events like earthquakes, and in Christchurch, it was found that after the large quakes, many people came together to help and care for one another.
People also expressed hope that they could have some control of the future direction of the city and its rebuild, with hundreds of thousands participating in the city council’s “Have Your Say” process.
The popular vision that emerged was of Christchurch as a smart and sustainable city, a city within a garden (August 2011). Citizens rightly hoped their ideas would be taken seriously and implemented.
Since then, many media headlines and letters to the editor have been about a dysfunctional council and the need for politicians and officials to work as a team that collaborates with stakeholders and the public.
Most people in leadership and administrative positions have been to university, however, while most learn technical competency and individual competition, very few learn how to collaborate. (for discussion see Gronski and Pigg (2000) in Behavioural Scientist).
I think there’s a desperate need for holistic development – whole of city development – that communicates and relates the parts to the whole and the whole to the parts, theory to practice and practice to theory.
For instance, while there is a vision of Christchurch as a city within a garden, there is also a plan for bulldozers to flatten many of its wonderful gardens and established trees. There is communication with boys with toys about demolition, but not communication with those who know how to recognize, preserve and build on what Christchurch already has, and on which it can build realistic hope.
To conclude: There is a well-resourced industry which fosters individual and organizational public relations e.g. creating a favorable image and communicating messages through the news media, but not an industry fostering best practice communication and collaboration, so people learn to work more effectively together. I wonder why not? What do you think?
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Transdisciplinarity is described as a new form of learning and problem solving involving cooperation among different parts of society and academia in order to meet complex challenges of society. See summary of methodology on Village connections and a link to an article on The Potential of Transdisciplinarity by Helga Nowotny