Science for development: for a radical shift

Introducing scientific knowledge, a delicate task

As Grounded Changes effectiveness relies on ‘inside’ diagnosis and solutions, it is by no means straightforward to introduce ‘external’ points of view (such as scientific one), without affecting the efficiency and relevance of the whole process.

  • ‘External’ here means ‘knowledge’, or a ‘diagnosis’ (which are considered, in the Grounded Changes valuing of each stakeholder’s position, as a ‘point of view’), that have not yet been adopted by at least of one participant..

Of course, introducing some ‘external’ knowledge can be accomplished by introducing a new player who advocates for this knowledge (see TerriStories® rules). However, scientists are often reluctant to translate their knowledge in simple qualitative rules (of the game). They are uncomfortable and unskilled when using the mode of idea synthesis this task entails. Some progress has been made (e.g. Companion Modelling), but reluctance still remains. Beyond this methodological issue, some of the stakeholders (especially scientists and high-level decision makers) experience difficulties when having to consider their ‘objectivity’ and ‘universality’ as only one viewpoint among a diversity of other relevant knowledge and values frames. Progress still needs to be made here.

Interview of J. Bourgoin

Relativism? No, but replacing truth with refutable

Valuing everyone’s experience, knowledge, and even points of view (e.g. about common values, choice of future…) does not mean having to acknowledge misguided ones. Instead, the process of valuing diversity helps give a logical and structured shape to each opinion …Simply by inciting people to introduce in this form, via the game, their opinions: indeed, a game rule must be expressed in a way that the other players are able to assess the rationale, even if it is not their own opinion.

Consequently, this simple game rule process offers the opportunity to put opinions and experiences on an equal but rigorous footing, which values sound ones while excluding those not sufficiently demonstrated…whether they emanate from local stakeholders, scholars or decision-makers. …The scientific rigor instead of the scientists’ truth.

A science ‘after’ development?

The effective establishment of local and endogenous commitment does imply the exclusion of ‘external’ scientific knowledge as long as participants not require them to improve their on-going and autonomous diagnosis. Furthermore, it also implies that scientific actions and supports are finalized only once their needs have been demonstrated by participants during the ‘inside’ learning-by-doing process.

During the Grounded Changes process (i.e. game sessions then autonomous implementations in the field), participants are sharpening, testing, and developing their ideas and are improving their action. At certain steps of this process, they will feel they have insufficient knowledge. This knowledge may alread be available and provided, and if not it could become the objective of new scientific activities.

As regards Research for Development, that would mean to begin every program by setting first a local commitment process before any definition of research activities, and so accept to postpone the definition of precise scientific goals and programs until after the beginning of the project…This indeed something that remains difficult to insert into usual research programs frameworks, but, it is, however, the only relevant way to develop a Research for Development.

How to position research within a development process?

Towards a shared language between each society position?

The ultimate purpose of the TerriStories, and beyond of the Grounded Changes approach, is to provide communication ingredients that are sufficiently generic to enable everyone, whatever his or her culture and way of thinking, to express his or her reasoned visions about the workings of society, and to understand and acknowledge those from the others.

The ideal dialog tool will bring together the different worldwide forms of expression about knowledge and points of view about the world: oral expression in all its forms, non-verbal and visual (colors, shapes) language, and the logical structure of science…in other words, a game.

…Getting players from diverse places in the world to share and strengthen their positions about what world would work.