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Blog #11 on a living social practice – an alternative to the instrumental

Updated: Jul 31, 2022

In Blog #10 I shared how my latest book Understanding Phenomenological Reflective Practice in the Social and Ecological Fields is ready for publishing in the next few weeks and addresses the challenge of maintaining a living social practice in our vocational work.

The book focuses on a social practice that is oriented towards life – and in the previous blog I explained the ‘problem’ of instrumental dead practice.

As such, if the problem in the social field is instrumental forms of intervention – imposing human will on social phenomena - then a response is a non-instrumental way of being. This is characterised by first observing, understanding and then working ‘alongside’, accompanying, working from the ‘inside-out’ of a social organism (a group, community or organisation).

This way of practicing is about receptivity and responsibility, all made possible by a kind of observational practice that enables practitioners to sense into the inner nature of social change, accompany energies, movement and momentum for change (again, not imposing change or energy onto a group, community or organisation).

At the same time, if the problem is mechanical thinking and practice, then this practice foregrounds living thinking and practice – working with movement, metamorphosis and momentum, attentive to polarities (aliveness is usually filled with polarities such as flexibility and structure, growth and decay, laughter and seriousness, planning and going with flow).

If the problem is diminished freedom in a culture of compliance, audit and control, then this practice foregrounds a reflection focused on freedom and responsibility.

If the problem is routine and ruts – and I will sometimes characterise this as ‘stuckness’ – then a way forward is to be in a living responsive relationship to complex and emergent change. That is, to always be present and ‘on the edge’ with what is! And what is, is always changing - so, our practice needs to be edgy, never settled.

And to be edgy requires an intimacy with self, other, and the social field (group, community or organisation) in ways that require each practitioner to ‘step up’ into a profound commitment to being awake. And such wakefulness is to then be alert, discerning enough to be gathered up into the web of belonging, connection and consequence of being alive. In this sense, wakefulness is to be delivered into citizenship in the world.

More coming in the next blog :)

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