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How to foster dialoguing in uncertain situations CIF Conference 2009 Tom Erik Arnkil Research professor, National institute for Health and Welfare (THL),

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Presentation on theme: "How to foster dialoguing in uncertain situations CIF Conference 2009 Tom Erik Arnkil Research professor, National institute for Health and Welfare (THL),"— Presentation transcript:

1 How to foster dialoguing in uncertain situations CIF Conference 2009 Tom Erik Arnkil Research professor, National institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Finland Associate professor/social policy/social work, University of Helsinki, Finland

2 Our team at THL: Methods and practices for co-operation Method development and action research in successive projects for two decades In close collaboration with municipalities: players at all levels Central idea: dialogues for combining strengths and resources; from expert-centred work to open co- operation At present: intensive developmental work and research with two municipalities (Nurmijärvi and Rovaniemi ): all the professionals & superiors & administration working with children, adolescents and families (from maternity clinics to schools, from kindergartens to social work…) Manuals, guidelines and training programs (nationwide; 2009: Oslo/Norway)

3 Context: “Full blown” (or “late”) modernization Diversified professional system (Luhmann: Modernization=society diversifies into systems and sub- systems and sub-sub-systems that operate on specialized codes) Individualization (Beck: Modernization=profound transformation of society individual relationships)

4 In Finland Emphasis on public services (less on commercial & third sector) Emphasis on professional help (less on personal networks) High degree of specialization High value on individuation/independence: turn 18 and you’re out in the world... = Multi-agency networks around individuals

5 Multi-agency situations In stead of "multi-problem families/clients" one should talk about multi-agency families/clients because extensive problems lead to client- relationships with various agencies simultaneously multi-agency situations are complex; further specialization increases complexity new integration is necessary talk about "multi-problem families/clients" is stigmatising (Imber-Black 1988)

6 The dilemma: It is necessary to cross boundaries horizontally and vertically across sectors, agencies and professions towards clients and their personal networks across hierarchical levels of management between public, private and 3rd sector players Sektori A Ysikkö A1Yksikkö A2Yksikkö A3 B Yksikkö B1 Yksikkö B2 Yksikkö B3 Sektori B Bureaucracies are sectored, everyday life is not

7 Dialogue: The art of crossing boundaries Reaching out accross boundaries calls for responsiveness - instead of dictating how others should think & act Dialogue is thinking together Monologue: finite utterances. Dialogue: words do not have fixed meanings. A joint language area is formed in dialogues, new meanings are generated

8 Uncertain situations Giddens, Beck & Lash (1994): Reflexive modernity Actions have intended and unintended consequences - and the present is a mix of both Everything ”echoes back” (think of global warming/green house effect, for example) The certainty & credibility of expert systems (c.f. the 50’-60’ ”social engineering”) evapourates Complexity: less control (and fantasies of control) need for tolerating uncertainty

9 Have you ever been in a "grey zone of worry"? If you know or have a hunch that there are others somehow connected with the situation you are working with anticipate that things are not going in the right direction would welcome more resources of help feel that you are somehow in the dark of what is going on feel that what others do affects what you can achieve would welcome more control of the whole you are in a grey zone of worry

10 Zones of subjective worry (Arnkil & Eriksson) NO WORRY SMALL WORRYGREY ZONEGREAT WORRY Feelings of slight worry or wonder; confidence in one's own possibilities to support -> Thoughts of a need for additional resources Worry growing; confidence in own possibilities diminishing or running dry. -> Clearly felt need for extra supporters and controllers. Constant strong worry: child/client/ patient in danger. Own means exhausted. ->Change and safety needed needed immediately.

11 Appeal: Do not classify clients! The zone-instrument was made for "sensitising" professionals and encouraging them to take action encouraging appreciative communication between perspectives reflecting upon good practices (for lessening worries) working out guidelines for action The zone-instrument is not for classifying/labelling - clients. It is the observer who finds her/himself "in" a zone. Worries change, labels stick.

12 Our methods for worry-zones NO WORRYSMALL WORRYGREY ZONEGREAT WORRY Dialogues for reflecting & exchanging local knowledge: what works, what are we doing right in each zone Early dialogues: Taking up worries in respectful ways Anticipation Dialogues/ Future Dialogues with families & personal networks Anticipation Dialogues/ Future Dialogues with families & personal networks Developed by others: Family Group Conferencing for child protection Open Dialogues for mental health work

13 Uncertainty and authoritative discourse When one feels that the situation is slipping out of control and uncertainty rises, one is tempted to add control by trying to control how others should think and act. Bakhtin 1981: Authoritative discourse demands obedience; internally persuasive discourse allows dialogic co-generating.

14 Dialogicity & tolerating uncertainty Each person has a unique point of view (literally: point from which a view opens) Polyphony, plurality of voices adds to possibilities to think differently, to generate and develop thoughts Each individual lives in different "positions" and is therefore multi-voiced At the interface of inner dialogues and external dialogues rich polyphony emerges.

15 Anticipation dialogues: recalling the future with families Family & friendsProfessionals …take public notes (on flap chart, etc.) Facilitators …interview

16 Facilitators' questions To the family group: 1. A year has passed and things are quite well. How are they for you? (What are you especially happy about?) 2. What did you do to bring about this positive development - and who helped you and how? 3. What made you worried "a year ago" and what lessened your worries? To the professionals: 1. As you heard, things are quite well in the family. What did you do to support the good development - and who helped you and how? 2. What made you worried "a year ago" and what lessened your worries?

17 Before closing, participants "return" from the future and discuss co-operation & make a plan The next step(s) are crucial and need to be planned concretely: who does what with whom next A follow-up meeting is agreed upon - if found necessary. (Follow up supports commitment of each party) Immediate feed-back for research is gathered at the very end of the meeting Evaluation/research data is gathered also in follow up-meetings

18 Dialogue is orienting to responses, responsiveness (Bakhtin 1981, 1986): “For the word (and, consequently, for a human being) there is nothing more terrible than a lack of response”. “Being heard as such is already a dialogic relation”.

19 At the heart of dialogism (at least) listening and being heard, enhanced by: space, reflective structures; dealying comments, separating talking and listening talking in the first person (vs. "representing the general view") responsiveness; taking the Other into account open sentences inviting responses (vs. finitite utterances) In dialogue, one attempts to nourish possibilities for developing joint understanding It is crucial to foster possibilities to go on

20 Further reading: Jaakko Seikkula & Tom Erik Arnkil: Dialogical Meetings in Social Networks. Karnac Books (Also available in German, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and Finnish)


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