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December 1992

Effective Response to Crises

Impeding psycho-conceptual factors and clarification of approaches

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Checklist of fundamental psycho-conceptual factors impeding effective response to crises

 1. Persistent (and often arrogant) belief in the adequacy of single-factor approaches and the expectation that they can be successfully organized and appropriately implemented for all:
 - through a single theory or model
 - through a single methodology or discipline
 - through a single belief system or ideology
 - through a single programme or policy
 - through a single organizational system
 - through a single form of information
 - through a single culture or language
 - through a single leader (statesman, charismatic figure, guru, etc)
 2. Failure to make explicit allowances for blindspots and inherent weaknesses/excesses in any approach or combination of approaches or to envisage appropriate means of counteracting them.
 3. Failure to recognize that no logical combination of approaches can encompass the dimensions and dynamics of discontinuous change without making reductionistic assumptions which endanger the appropriate development of that process.
 4. Failure to recognize that in a democratic society people and groups act from different perspectives and from very different portions of learning pathways -- some are just discovering what others are now abandoning as inappropriate. Vigorously advanced, simplistic, short-term approaches must be woven into more appropriate, but politically less viable, longer-term approaches of greater scope.
 5. Failure to recognize the track record of previous initiatives which endeavour to respond to the same complex of issues, and failure to analyze the reasons for their failure and the implications for future initiatives.
 6. Failure to give explicit recognition to the influence of contextual processes which are endeavouring to subvert, undermine or counter-act the initiative or to ensure that its consequences are only symbolic and not concrete.
 7. Failure to give explicit recognition to human tendencies and temptations to use any initiative to advance the personal interests of those involved, whether by exploiting opportunities at the expense of the collective or by encouraging and profiting from nepotism, bribery or corruption.
 8. Failure to recognize the diversity of approaches required to encompass any socially significant problematique and to satisfy the preferences and learning challenges of different personality types:
 - diversity of theories, models
 - diversity of methodologies or disciplines
 - diversity of belief systems or ideologies
 - diversity of forms of structuring information
 - diversity of programmes or policies
 - diversity of organizational systems
 - diversity of personality types
 - diversity of cultures or languages
 - diversity of leaders
 9. Failure to configure any such diversity into a meaningful set of complementarities, whether as a static configuration of concurrent activities or as cycles interlinking diverse alternatives as phases over time.
 10. Failure to recognize the degree to which all are subject to information overload and have very little capacity to absorb new information or insights -- leading to the failure to render comprehensible the complexity and temporal articulation of appropriate approaches to the constituencies which they affect.
 11. Failure to compensate for the natural tendency to imply or actively claim that the action taken is appropriate (even though it may have been initiated in ignorance, despite the conflicting views of experts, or without consulting those likely to be affected) - thus failing to relate appropriately to groups indifferent or opposed to the initiative.
 12. Failure to respond appropriately to the paradox that, whilst diversity is necessary, action can only effectively be undertaken by concentrating on specificities and ignoring, or even opposing, the variety of other initiatives.  

If we fail to understand how we are individually part of the problem,
we are unable to understand the nature of the solution required.

Proposals to clarify approaches to more effective action

 1. Elaborate checklist of factors opposing effective responses to crises, with special attention to the (embarassing) factors that are normally ignored
 2. Clarify the dimensions making for effective diversity in any approach, taking into account interdisciplinary, intercultural and team building dimensions
 3. Clarify the psycho-social dynamics associated with the any new initiative and the manner in which it tends to become
 - a vehicle for territorial games and for the ego enhancement of participants;
 - a drain on scarce resources;
 - a symbol onto which hopes and expectations are dangerously projected;
 - a monument to problems of the past;
 - a means of reinforcing inappropriate modes of action;
 - a means of reinforcing the separation between the actors and the acted upon.
 4. Clarify ways of catalyzing the emergence of new ways of thinking about initiatives and their interrelationship such as to:
 - empower those who currently depend on others to act for them;
 - provide a sense of the ecology of initiatives and ways of working in that conceptual environment.
 5. Clarify means for configuring a diversity of perspectives, initiatives, skills and values, whether concurrently or over time (eg as phases of interlinked cycles) to ensure:
 - an appropriate patterns of checks and balances;
 - the requisite degree of variety to contain the problematique conceptually and to manage the complex of resources brought to bear upon it.
 6. Render explicit the interrelationship between health group initiatives and the psychological health of the participants especially in terms of the kinds of information needed and the kinds of learning challenges evoked.
 7. Explore the possibility of shifting the emphasis from transformation of social structures to transformation of ways of perceiving and valuing those structures, bearing in mind the need for radically new ways of cutting through the research/education/dissemination/policy change delays and the varieties of game-playing associated with them.

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