Monday, September 10, 2012

IGERT Retreat Day 1 Reflections

I'm here at Menucha, a Presbyterian retreat, for my IGERT week-long retreat. Just got introduced to the  second cohort. Like the first-year cohort that I've spend the lion's share of my time with this group is filled with folks with  a lot of experience and educational backgrounds. Some truly heavy hitters are here and that's inspiring from an academic point of view, but also for the program, as a whole. It means that Portland State is getting around and this program has the ability to pull in competitive folks.

Unsurprisingly, most of the day was dedicated to introduction and a three-hour session talking about team building and dynamics. It was marginally useful, good to hear some stuff, but, you know, it's still a three hour session on team building. Although, there were no trust falls or rope course type stuff...so...little blessings. Although, there was a bit of a dustup when our lecturer started to discuss the pitfalls of putting major decisions to a vote and gave us advice on what topics are appropriate for votes (trivial things with relatively few options, btw). Doug, one of the cohort, asked what an alternative decisionmaking process would be and our lecturer didn't really give an adequate answer. At least not one I could understand. It was basically a call for some kind of general consensus that occurs when your group has talked all possible options to death and you end up going with something either out of exhaustion, time restraints, or individual stubbornness. Which is, of course, what happens when you depend on consensus based decision tools. You have all of the risks of deliberative democratic techniques that have plagued communicative and democratic theorists for years.

I mentioned how this was kind of a basic weakness in the approach and the issue, appropriately, was unresolved and we left with a consensus. A real teachable moment, actually. At least from a planning theoretical perspective.

So...reflections from first day thus far...everyone should be required to read more planning theory. And can we finally bury communicative planning?

As always, keep it surly. Til tomorrow.

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