I’m not going to lie. Reading Caroline Ramsey’s two articles while sitting in Haiti sent me for a bit of a loop. Provocative theory and management practices and phronesis, OH MY! I read the articles several times, and then I looked out over my surroundings. In a world where context is everything, how would these two worlds connect?
While some of the technical terms were lost on me, I particularly enjoyed the narrative portions of “Provocative Theory and a Scholarship of Practice” and “Management Learning: A Scholarship of Practice Centered on Attention?” Ramsey had a way of telling these stories in real-speak to connect the principles (or theory) with the practical.
I focused on three specific quotes:
“First, knowing is not consistent and sustained, but is interactive with the world and is shaped by that interaction. Secondly, it is generative; in interacting with the world, the practitioner, ‘knowing in action,’ produces and innovates a new world.” (“Management Learning,” 4)
“My learning was continually shaped by the relationships within which my work was embedded.” (“Management Learning,” 14)
How does theory relate to practice? Ramsey proposes through a relationship of engagement, not the application of theory. (“Provocative Theory”, 2)
Here in Haiti, there is a lack of critical thinking. When one is living day-to-day in survival mode, thinking five years in the future is a luxury one cannot afford. It is nearly impossible to teach sustainability, or how to plan ahead. Business practices run amuck, and while there is a slight twinge of creativity, this is a country where theories come to die. Would action and practicality thrive, if given the chance?
But, then I considered the term “phronesis,” which is defined as wisdom in determining ends and the means for attaining those ends. Where better for this concept to be considered. Of all places, Haiti is in need of such wisdom. Accomplishing anything here is remarkable, and to make any significant accomplishment in a wise and thoughtful manner is even more so. Foreign aid is literally dumped into the country, often with little or no thought as to implementation, effectiveness or sustainability. Even more often, a “one size fits all” approach is used by governments and NGOs when attempting to improve conditions in Haiti.
Haiti is a perfect example of a country where knowing is truly interactive. Pragmatic solutions are almost always the most successful, and developing such a solution requires careful listening and the development of relationships of trust. Political dynamics, weather, and many other forces are constantly changing in Haiti, and the solution that worked last month will generally not work today.
I am left with the thoughts of relationship. We learn through relationships. We evolve through relationships. Today, Pastor Mongerard and I spoke of how our partnership has resulted out of a relationship of trust with significant communication and learning best practices. I have learned because of him and the work we have accomplished together, and I hope he feels likewise.
So that’s what I’m left with, sitting here in Haiti, with Stefania, under a mango tree. Wishing you all a good night!