Towards reframing professional expert support

Reynolds, Martin (2007). Towards reframing professional expert support. In: Development Studies Association Annual Conference 2007: Connecting Science, Society and Development, 18-20 Sep 2007, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK.



The paper addresses practical ways of reconfiguring professional expertise in development practice in moving away from the expert as a technocrat. Two projects associated with managing natural resource dilemmas suggest an alternative way of framing intervention involving professional experts providing a more appropriate collaborative learning space for development practice. The paper describes the heuristic devices generated by each project as helpful in bringing out dialectic tensions between practice and understanding, and between systems of interest and situations of interest (or situated problems). Firstly, SLIM (social learning for the integrated management and sustainable use of water at catchment scale) - a European Framework Programme 5 project - exemplifies social learning as a measure of sustainable development. The heuristic illustrates the dependence of sustainability on changes in practice and understanding amongst professionals and other stakeholders as part of concerted - rather than merely individual or even collective - action. Secondly, ECOSENSUS (Electronic/Ecological Collaborative Sensemaking Support System) - a Guyana focused intervention involving several UK universities in collaboration with the University of Guyana and Amerindian community representatives from the North Rupununi wetlands - builds on the SLIM heuristic in supporting the development of practice. Additionally, the ECOSENSUS heuristic provides conceptual space for the interaction between conceptual constructs of distributed stakeholders (that is, systems thinking) including those with professional expertise, and the actual context of intervention (the situated problem). Both SLIM and ECOSENSUS provide heuristics for process-orientated management enabling more meaningful and purposeful interaction between professional/ technical experts and other stakeholders, as an alternative to conventional project-orientated management intervention. An alternative framing may help to steer practice away from the apoliticised comforting linearity of professionalised systematic project management towards more constructive systemic endeavours involving multiple stakeholders.

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