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Learning Beyond Fear: New Events Seeking New Habits - Reflections.

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Eyben, Karin, Morrow, Duncan, Wilson, Derick and Keys, Libby (2002) Learning Beyond Fear: New Events Seeking New Habits - Reflections. Reflections, 3 (4). pp. 42-51. [Journal article]

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Abstract

Future Ways is a university-based programme designed to support research and learning for sustainable relationships in both rural and urban areas in Northern Ireland. We are primarily funded by independent trusts and foundations with an interest in reconciliation. Our work is based on five core beliefs:1] Building sustainable relationships and trust requires addressing three inter-related elements at the basis of any democratic society. These are equity, diversity and interdependence. 2] In relationships where there is regard and respect, creativity flows and people grow, change and develop.3] Responsibility for addressing the legacy of division and mistrust in Northern Ireland must not be solely located on those who are most vulnerable such as children or the poorest communities. In practical terms, this means addressing the culture, practice and self-understanding of the middle classes and the core institutions of society including the public services, the voluntary sector and business. 4] The primary task in building sustainable relationships is learning our way beyond fear and what we have taken to be ‘normal’. This requires people with ‘wisdom and judgement’ rather than ‘techniques and skills’. We don’t ‘know’ the answers; we must ‘find them out’.5] We need to move the case for sustainable relationships beyond the moral realm to focusing on the costs to society if we fail to address flawed relationships. In 1997, we published a research report (A Worthwhile Venture? University of Ulster, 1997) which argued that working towards better inter-community relationships in Northern Ireland should cease to be a peripheral interest and low-level policy objective and become a core organisational task for public and civic institutions. A core finding within this report was that although there was wide-spread agreement across different sectors in Northern Ireland that greater interdependence was of central importance, there was less evidence of mainstream understanding and practical programmes beyond the voluntary and youth sectors.As a result, Future Ways embarked on an experimental programme of work with core public and voluntary organisations such as the civil service, local government, churches, community organisations, politicians and the police as employers, civic leaders and deliverer of core services. The purpose was to ‘find out’ what it would mean for those at the centre of public and private life to begin taking trust-building seriously. This meant organisations learning in new ways about how they both shape and are shaped by their political and community context.The workplace in Northern Ireland has been one of the few places where people from different cultures and traditions have come together in the midst of the violence and chaos shaping wider community relationships. The ‘myth’ is that they have come together through leaving their ‘baggage’ at the door. The reality is that relationships have more often been cemented by silence, avoidance and a fear of upsetting colleagues and peers. Organisational learning in this context is learning to move beyond silence.We found it harder to engage the business sector, which often works with different priorities and value base from the not-for profit and public sectors. Nevertheless, there is evidence that the learning and practice models developed within the public and voluntary sectors are filtering into the business world. This emphasizes the need for ‘learning networks’ that cross sectoral lines where those who are able to move ahead faster can share both their learnings and mistakes.This article summarise some of our key learnings from our work over the last four years and the dilemmas that our partners and we faced. We hope that these are relevant to the business, public and not-for profit sectors as building sustainable relationships is a societal task.The challenges of interdependence are universal. These challenges might be sharpened, exposed in a place like Northern Ireland where the costs of ignoring division and separation have been all too apparent. However, following September 11th, we are now all embarked on a journey dependent in part on our willingness to trust and learn across traditional

Item Type:Journal article
Keywords:Organisational Learning; Conflict Resolution, Reconciliation, Policing,
Faculties and Schools:Faculty of Social Sciences
Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Education
Research Institutes and Groups:Institute for Research in Social Sciences
Institute for Research in Social Sciences > Education
ID Code:12604
Deposited By:Dr Derick Wilson
Deposited On:20 Apr 2010 10:20
Last Modified:20 Apr 2010 10:20

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