Tag Archives: sustainability

A brief design sketch for a collaborative project that I would like to be part of

22 August 2012 (prepared for discussion with Portuguese and Mexican colleagues)

1. We are concerned with prefiguring the future without disordering the present.

2. This requires theorized engagement within intersecting (cross-scale) processes of socio-environmental and social epidemiological change.

3. There are multiple potential points of engagement within the intersecting processes.  In what ways can these be linked together in a manner that is intentional and explicit, that allows for indeterminancy of outcomes and does not assume that “truth is great and will prevail”?

4. There is always a tension between solidarities forged through working and living together in particular places—“militant particularism”—and the application of trans-local perspectives, abstractions, or other resources.

5. “Flexible engagement” = a process challenge, rather than a content challenge for researchers in any knowledge-making situation: How do we connect quickly with others who are almost ready to foster—formally or otherwise—participatory processes and, through the experience such processes provide their participants, contribute to enhancing the capacity of others to do likewise?

6. We seek personal integrity (in the sense both of whole-ness and ethical consistency) in the ways that the collaboration prefigures the way we want others to prefigure the future without disordering the present.  (Evidence of that seeking is various explorations including, in my case, narrative and human givens approaches to therapy and community work.)

7. During workshops and other interactions we can experiment with creating spaces for connecting, probing, and reflecting (“CPR”), spaces that allow us to engage within intersecting (cross-scale) processes of somatic, mental, and emotional change over our life courses.  In such spaces we see that it is not possible to simply continue along previous lines.

8.  In those spaces we cultivate ourselves and others as collaborators through the “4R”s.  In brief, the more Respect is established, the more Risks participants are likely to take; the more Risks, the more likely they are to have new insights or Revelations; and the more Revelations, the more likely they are to Re-engage with their interests and aspirations to make a difference through their work and lives.

9.  There is always a tension between, on one hand, the insights, ethical commitments, and energy that arise in CPR spaces and, on the other hand, the challenges of translating those insights, ethical commitments, and energy into engagements outside those spaces with people who have not cultivated themselves as collaborators.

10.  I have a proclivity for making what I now call “design sketches”—Design is about intentionality in construction, which involves a range of materials, a sequence of steps, and principles that inform the choice of material and the steps.  Sketch denotes the incompleteness of the designs—there is often a gap between the principles I lay out and their realization in practice or established knowledge.

11.  This is a brief design sketch for a collaborative project that I would like to be part of.


1.  R. García Barrios.

2. Taylor, P. J. and R. García-Barrios (1995). “The social analysis of ecological change: From systems to intersecting processes.” Social Science Information 34(1): 5-30.

3. Taylor, P. J. (2005). “Unruly Complexity; Intersecting Processes,” Pp. 156-165  in Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press

4 & 5. Taylor, P. J. (2005). “Epilogue: Three Stories,” Pp. 203-213  in Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press (http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/epilogue.pdf).

6. White, M. (2007). Maps of Narrative Practice. New York: Norton. Griffin, J. and I. Tyrrell, Eds. (2007). An idea in practice: Using the human givens approach. Chalvington, UK: Human Givens Publishing.

7. http://ptaylor.wikispaces.umb.edu/CPRworkshop

8. Taylor, P. J., S. J. Fifield, C. Young. (2011). “Cultivating Collaborators: Concepts and Questions Emerging Interactively From An Evolving, Interdisciplinary Workshop.” Science as Culture 20(1): 89-105 (http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/08c.pdf). Taylor, P. and J. Szteiter (2012) Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research and Engagement. Arlington: The Pumping Station (available online as paperback or pdf from http://thepumpingstation.org/books/)

9. http://wp.me/p1gwfa-px

10. http://designcatalog.wordpress.com/

11. Similar points are developed in Taylor, P. J. (2012ms). “Now it is impossible ‘simply to continue along previous lines’– Incomplete and unrevised notes on Enactable Social Theorizing and Open Spaces.”  http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/12a.pdf.

A modified three E’s for sustainable development: Economy, Equitable governance, Engaged populace

Ten years ago the Three E’s were promoted for sustainable development: environment, economics, equity.  I applauded the equity goal, but I wondered what its logical connection was with sustainabilty.  What follows was my take, as prepared for an education for sustainability initiative in 2003 (which proved not, alas, to be sustainable).

The vision of sustainable economic and social development expressed in the 1987 United Nations’ Brundtland Commission report, Our Common Future — development that “meets the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

In this spirit, we envision three interrelated strands of sustainability:

  • a sustainable Economy, ensuring that members of future generations have equivalent — or enhanced — capacity for living, being healthy, making a livelihood, gaining environmental services, and harnessing natural resources.
  • Just and Equitable governance — decision-making procedures and institutions that do not permit one group’s access to resources to be ensured at the expense of others.

(Equity is linked with sustainability because, if we are concerned not to degrade the conditions for people in future generations, it makes sense to be concerned with improving the conditions of other people with degraded conditions in the present. Movement towards a sustainable, equitable society impels us to resist any growth of the gap among the capacities of different groups.)

  •  an Engaged populace, one in which people’s commitment to sustainability and equity motivates them:
    • to appreciate and monitor the state of the environment, social structure, human health;
    • to understand linked social and environmental processes;
    • to transform practices that makes those processes unsustainable and inequitable; and
    • to cross boundaries and collaborate with others in the pursuit of understanding and transformation.