'Unfolding' natural resource-use information systems: fieldwork in Botswana.
Systemic Practice and Action Research, 11(2)
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My research examines the performance of natural resource-use information systems. I question why such systems, despite receiving substantial financial and human investment, appear to have a weak impact on projects, programs, and policy intended for rural poverty alleviation in developing countries. Drawing on my understanding of the process of unfolding introduced by C. West Churchman, and its particular relationship to Habermasian constitutive interests, I reflect on my experiences of using the concept during fieldwork undertaken in Botswana. The concept is found useful on two fronts: first, it provides a purposeful guide for gathering and processing information/knowledge—what I have termed an epistemological intent; second, it provides a useful template for evaluating other information systems; in particular, the role of expertise—what I have termed an ontological intent. The process of unfolding, as I understand it, also provides an invitation for constructive (rather than self-indulgent) personal reflection: what might be termed a constitutive reflexive intent. By making information gathering and knowledge generation less mystical and a more transparent social activity, the conceptual and practical application of the process of unfolding can help toward retrieving inquiry as being a purposeful, openly political, and thereby less deceptive engagement: features which I believe are found particularly wanting in the business of rural development information gathering.
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