Emerging Research Questions

Through taking a tour through Deliberative Systems, Systemic Thinking and Whole System debates and the Soft System Method and System Action Research we’ve draw out clusters of research questions and possible methods for our next phases of My York Central work. One way of thinking of this is deepening the iterative three modes we’ve been using for My Castle Gateway and My York Central.

Start where people are and let the issues emerge.

This is very much about working with people on their own terms, which will include memories, feelings, stories, local knowledge as well as ideas taken from things they have watched or read or inspiring examples people have seen. This allows us not to limit what gets included in democratic discourse.

Drawing on Checkland and Poulter’s ‘soft system method’ (2006) we might to explore how to surface worldviews – such as in the example of cars above – so these more underlying logics that shape people’s ideas and actions can be discussed.

We are also interested – drawing on Systemic Action Research (Burns 2007) – to see these conversations as leading to inquiries and action and experimentation.

As part of this – keeping the prompts from Deliberative Systems debates in mind – we will seek to 1) explore what it might mean to increase deliberative capacities through these everyday interactions and 2) document not just what people say but also create a live map and/or narrative of connections so these connections are visible to everyone and open for reflective commentary as we define issues.

Meta: Throughout we will keep in mind Mansbridge et al’s function qualities:

  • The epistemic function – are all issues being aired?
  • The ethical function – is mutual respect being cultivated?
  • The democratic function – is the process inclusive of all affected and advancing equality?

Explore complex issues

Using the mapping, visualisation and narrativization of how ideas connect we will deepen understandings of complex issues through focused and informed debates. A crucial part of this is to connect people and ideas so that an active social network around the possibilities is developed.

We will also explore how to link different ways of knowing – from the data held by the council, expert knowledges and the wide range of visual and storytelling contributions – through collaborative ‘open analysis’ events and through playing back stories and refining questions.

We will seek to construct a networked public sphere where 1) consensus is sought where helpful, 2) dissent and contest is welcome and seen as contribution to a deliberative system and 3) parallel action and divergent outcomes and action are also supported.

Meta: Through this process we will also seek to identify blockages in both addressing the substantive issues but also in the emerging deliberative system itself.

Make change together

We will experiment with different ways of enabling direct connection to formal decision-making processes – from directly involving councillors to ‘report’ processes which are digestible and memorable.

We will also seek to develop broader understandings of change that include everyday and community-led action and see the process of creating the deliberative system as also creating networks to take forward different ideas at all scales.

Meta: throughout this process we will be reflecting on how this might enable richer understanding and practices of democracy and in particular give new forms to participatory democracy.

The role of the facilitator

Throughout we will be especially attentive to our role as facilitators, noticing what we are doing, actively documenting the effects of different interventions and making our reflections on this visible as we go along.

Meta: how do systems benefit from facilitation, how might such a role be institutionalised with our democratic system, is it a special role or can it be distributed amongst different people and roles?