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Wednesday, July 12 • 16:00 - 16:30
3014 Critical Systems Thinking and Engaged Community Operations Research in Action: An Application to Promote Peace Among Urban and Rural Communities

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The relationship between systems thinking and Community Operational Research (COR) has been controversial. This paper shows how the simultaneous use of systems thinking and COR can be used to learn across research community boundaries in order to improve the lives and collaboration among people of marginalized communities. It has been argued that COR’s practice has a common concern: the meaningful engagement of one or more communities. Moreover, it has been pointed out that COR practitioners have been concerned with generating social improvement as well as designing new methodologies, methods, techniques and processes of engagement. In this paper we describe a research inquiry guided by critical systems thinking and COR in which members from different local and marginalized communities, collaborating with external researchers, conceived and developed a peace program that has been implemented in hundreds of schools and more than thirty cities, and that has affected the lives of the families and communities in which it has operated. This research program has fostered a culture of peace in social contexts in which cultures of violence used to prevail. The paper presents qualitative as well as quantitative evidence of the impact of the research inquiry. We show that the key elements to achieve these results have been the engagement of local communities and the use of critical systems thinking. The communities have participated in the understanding of the problematic situations to be addressed, as well as in the conception and design of alternatives to create meaningful improvements in these situations. This intervention has taken advantage of diverse systemic problem structuring methods (interactive planning, soft systems methodology, causal loop diagramming, etc.) and has used critical systems thinking, boundary critique, and critical systems heuristics. The combination of these methodologies and methods has allowed marginalized groups to express their ideas in safe and constructive environments. The continuous use of boundary critique during 14 years has allowed the communities to redefine the peace program several times, to question our understanding of what we mean by an engaged community, to increase people's participation, to address the complexity of the problematic situations, and to prevent less than fully responsible actions in these situations. The paper shows how the use of critical systems thinking and engaged COR can prevent some ethical research problems such as researchers' self-deception, groupthink, ignoring vital information, giving too much importance to the participants' self-interests, interpreting situations from inaccurate and narrow perspectives, and uncritical deference to authority.

Wednesday July 12, 2017 16:00 - 16:30 CEST
4th Floor, Room SR 384, Institut für Computertechnik,TU Wien Gußhausstraße 27-29, 1040 Wien, Austria

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