Transdisciplinary facilitation exists in the space between traditional specialisms and disciplines. It involves assisting people to not only bring their expertise and experience to the table, but simultaneously transcend this to engage in new, ungenreable activities and actions in collaboration with others.

Transdisciplinary versus interdisciplinary?

Here is a quote that helps to define the difference between these two this case in the context of research:

“We define interdisciplinary studies as projects that involve several unrelated academic disciplines in a way that forces them to cross subject boundaries to create new knowledge and theory and solve a common research goal. By unrelated, we mean that they have contrasting research paradigms. We might consider the differences between qualitative and quantitative approaches or between analytical and interpretative approaches that bring together disciplines from the humanities and the natural sciences.

We define transdisciplinary studies as projects that both integrate academic researchers from different unrelated disciplines and non-academic participants, such as land managers and the public, to research a common goal and create new knowledge and theory. Transdisciplinarity combines interdisciplinarity with a participatory approach.” Tress, Tress and Fry

Why transdisciplinary and why now?

Healthy, collaborative relationships have always been a major key to success in any enterprise, and are the bedrock to society. But why is transdisciplinary collaboration particularly important right now?

Parallel to the development of global telecommunication networks and media, there has been a strong global trend evident to network, and collaborate, across traditional boundaries of sector, geography, discipline, and religion.

The degree of percieved complexity, in our lives has increased to the point where finite understandings or boundaries are almost obsolete, except for very few manufacturing and administrative tasks and processes.

The 'known' world has become increasingly 'unknowable'.

The growth of sophisticated online social networking and media tools (eg. Ning, Linked inFacebook, Youtube, flickr) has allowed us to build maps to navigate complex global relationships, and to bridge geographic distance. Also to work in ways that were never though possible previously. They have also meant that traditional notions of what of 'truth are no longer valid, or at least very unstable. (Especially when faced with constructivist tools such as 'wikipedia' where knowledge is collaboratively generated rather than disseminated by 'experts').

Social media has allowed other people's stories to be heard and shared in our own living room, making it very difficult to live in a world where environmental, social, economic and cultural crisises are 'other people's problems' and 'out of site and out of mind'.

Also a number of interventions and solutions are needed to engage with the incredibly complex nature of the crises facing us. Climate change, poverty and conflict are interwoven, and caused by thousands of different actions at one level…and on another spawned from a way of thinking that has dominated our plant since the enlightenment, and is based on concrete a concrete seperatist reality and fixed, objective truth. To deal with issues such as climate change, interventions need to join and transcend current disciplines rather than be formed within each of them seperately.

What helps?

There are a number of factors that support trandisciplinary collaboration these include:

  • some shared passion or interest e.g. climate change
  • organisational committment and support for the individuals participating
  • adequate resources, including time
  • a reasonably high degree of communication skills, or committment to develop this area
  • a commitment to participation and equity, coupled with an understanding of power and rank differentials
  • a committment to understanding and learning from interpersonal process as the content or project focus
  • some degree of meta-reflective capacity and self awareness - i.e. the ability to look at ones actions and assumptions from a distance
  • the presence of intermediaries that support interaction and process not just manage content eg. facilitators and brokers like Foam, Brussels

It is the intermediaries, the transdisciplinary facilitators that provide support for all of the other aspects through both role-modelling, and also classic facilitation skills such as paying attention to process as well as content.

Transdisciplinary facilitation can involve one-off workshop situations, or macro level facilitation on larger projects. Facilitation can occur in multiple rhealms including physical and digital realities. When using mechanisms such as ARGs it can involve facilitating different perceptions with reality itself.

  • transdisciplinary_facilitation.txt
  • Last modified: 2009-02-05 02:34
  • by maggiebuxton