When: June 8, 2018 * 9:00a – 9:50 a.m Pacific Time
Where: OSU Campus Valley Library room 1420
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Title: Boundary Dynamics of a Transformative Learning Network: Improving Connection at the Interface of Science and Society
Abstract: Transformative learning networks are a specific type of loose network with geographically distributed members and member organizations. They hold specific promise for systems level transformation when both top-down and bottom-up processes have failed to shift systems into desired change. An in-depth qualitative case study of the National Alliance for Broader Impacts, this dissertation specifically focuses on the roles and dynamics of boundaries from a poststructuralist point of view. The aim is to build knowledge about the social-interactional processes and practices that build transformative capacity of networks.
A meso-theory of the productive tension between learning and influence as networks emerge and grow results from case analysis. The corollary conclusion is that two types of boundary work - building boundaries and navigating across boundaries - operate in productive tension to expand knowledge resources and increase network authority and influence in the system over time. This suggests that network leaders can dynamically manage boundaries, shifting emphasis between strength and fluidity to support multi-sited multi-scalar change.
The applied research contribution details common network substructures, across which critical practices occur. It also provides a typology of network practices organized by two distinct, but interdependent roles. Those in the sojourner role focus on site-based work to shift everyday norms, demonstrating a keen awareness of how institutions enable and constrain their efforts. Those in an expert role, design networks to provide meaningful member engagement opportunities across sites and at the same time build identity and coherence to enable transformation at multiple scales. These expert and sojourner roles generally correspond with boundary building and boundary navigation respectively. The primary claim being that a variety of structures, roles and practices work in concert to support transformation across sites and scales.
This study also examines “Broader Impacts” as a path for connecting science and society in a time when the realms of science and other sectors of society need to come together to address increasingly complex social, educational, and environmental challenges. The final contribution describes a manifestation of one (of many possible) transformative pathways that emerged from and evolves within the network. This is the concept of helping scientists develop their “impact identity”<https://academic.oup.com/icb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/icb/icy011/4985726>, which integrates scholarship in a scientific discipline with societal needs, personal preferences, capacities and skills, and one’s institutional context. Identity, or a scientists’ self-concept is understood as a productive driver that can improve outcomes for scientists and for society by bridging the gap between them through public engagement activities.
This body of work ties together the theory of morphogenesis from critical realism<https://centreforcriticalrealism.com/about-critical-realism/>, boundary concepts from across disciplines, and the landscapes of practice conceptual framework<http://wenger-trayner.com/resources/publications/learning-in-landscapes-of-practice/> to expand understanding about the design and potential of learning networks<http://www.brugo.org/> that disrupt the status quo to guide change in social-ecological and social-educational systems. The new theory and insights about structures and practices can inform network and transformation scholars across disciplines. Network leaders, designers, and evaluators can also apply this work to their practice. Those aiming to improve the intersections of science and society may find the insights herein applicable, especially in cases where networked emergent approaches are feasible options for supporting transformation.