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Being a civic practitioner; the civic literacy component of professional practice

Being a civic practitioner; the civic literacy component of professional practice

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Being a civic practitioner; the civic literacy component of professional practice

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  1. Being a civic practitioner; the civic literacy component of professional practice Phil Harington , University of Auckland, New Zealand Practical Learning Conference Edinburgh 2008

  2. Evidence of a growing debate about the capacity for social services & professional practice to achieve civic or transformative goals. • ‘New’ professional identities; - vocational, recognition of multiple stakeholders, capacity for critique, ethical knowledge, empirically robust, policy and advocacy roles, values peer review/supervision, willing to take ‘positions’ seek alliances. • Expectations by ‘outsiders’ that professions are agents, not ‘docile’ or self absorbed. Citizens expect proactive responses to claims for service; funders and service managers construct goals about outcomes, optimal delivery, effective practice. • The development of technologies that support information sharing, alternate locations for organisation and power, different forms of identity formation. How do professions respond?

  3. An example, The promise of social development: … branded by sociology as ‘third way politics’, has become a policy orientation centered on local innovations, self-reliant communities, building capacity, fostering cultural and social traditions, affirming ‘local’ identity and encouraging diversity.’ The notion of capacity building suggests • The skills locked in professions can be liberated into diverse sites, forms, practitioners. • Knowledge shared will invigorate civic identity and agency • The transfer of knowledge into sites of development is a skill. It may render a different professionalism – the semi professional. • Services will deliver ‘capacity development’ through localized forms of organization, contract. • Work occurs under managerial, political & performance scrutiny • The generation of a shared interest in evaluation, reflection, learning, & ‘professional development’.

  4. Such activity occurs frequently • in contexts defined by economic hardship, ethnicity, age, gender, family form, exposure violence, housing and education risk, location etc. • Where conventional wisdom has proven to be ineffective, social dynamics are intractable and ‘real’ shifts in power or respective identities have been negligible. • Orthodox practice is expensive, resistant and resisted, bureaucratic and contested. Diverse agendas exist for service and civic innovation • Theory of prevention, and self-determination find favour over primary and secondary intervention and generic responses. • Political management has maintained a contract and surveillances role, enabling local infrastructural development

  5. Such work comes at a time when professions are • Finding their way back, if gingerly, from the ‘de-professionalisation’ experience of neo-liberalism • Finding space for consumer participation in complaints procedures, lay input, advocacy roles, alliance building on moral grounds • Eschewing the ‘heroic’ stature for an approachable face • Seeking a broader demographic membership • Refining disciplinary tenants so that knowledge is made accessible, shared, ethically/empirically produced, peer reviewed, • Cultivating defences against hollowed out or captured practice, and • Seeking a public profile; takes a role in public debate and garners legitimacy.

  6. The argument for civic literacy Delaying an attempt at definition for the time being, civic literacy seeks to draw attention to; • The centrality of communication skills in the performance of practice • The idea that there are multiple literacies in a professional setting – many narratives, silo audiences, contested interfaces • The role of practice as a site of critical opportunity – at this site knowledge has its most immediate implication for application. Knowledge at that point needs to be current, accurate, adaptable and heard. • At which point the powers of observation by a trained mind should beat their most acute. The empiricism of the moment is the best learning for future practice. • Citizens rely on practitioners at the point where their civic opportunities are otherwise at risk. A practitioner ‘sees’ the event repeatedly, the citizen experiences the need periodically. • We should expect practitioners to have the literacy skills, in their communication, their analysis, positions of power, and reciprocity to render transformative outcomes.

  7. Elsewhere I have caste these as … • The capacity for straight talking in the sites of civic debate • Locating decision making where it resides/belongs • Conversant with the ‘narratives’ of locations and sites • Observing and telling the stories of power • Recognising the silent, masked or topical or fad-like. • Drawing the options into the light – theorising & strategy • Literacy in the disciplinary ‘promise’ – what it can do, what works/failed, comparative learning, what's in the literature • Aptitude with ‘others’ - different audiences/publics • Celebrating – markers of the contribution and pace • Building a shared knowledge.

  8. My current research interest; To explore the constructs of practitioners working in work with high civic aspirations To identify any notions of emergent practitioner or professional identity To spot any validation of a semi-profession notion adopted as a way to negotiate, negate or reduce any layering of power relations in practice To consider curriculum requirements for civic literacy and practice with civic aspirations.