Can participatory communication be taught? Finding your inner phronēsis.
Keywords: communication, capacity development, practical wisdom
AbstractThis paper pulls together current lessons, and past mistakes, in building capacity in the art and science of participatory communication. The science is the easy part. It is straightforward and tangible. It can be taught in a classroom or through a textbook or manual. But sadly, the science without the art often falls flat on its face. It is uni-dimensional and hollow and needs the ballast that comes from something much more ephemeral. We think of these as the ‘intangibles.’ Welcome the notion of practical wisdom, or phronēsis as Aristotle called it. Practical wisdom “is the ability to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason” (Bradshaw 2009). It is a term that refers to the acquired skill of ‘knowing what to do when facing unique circumstances’ (Schwartz & Sharpe 2010). Practical wisdom gives a name to the capacity development outcomes we so often seek: practitioners who are able to adjust methods, media and strategy to ever-changing contexts. We hope to train practitioners who can find solutions from a menu of options, without having to follow a checklist. We have learned that the intuition we seek to nurture emerges over time through trial and error. All these years we have actually been seeking to develop practitioners’ own phronēsis, but we lacked a name for it. Now this has given us a refreshing addition to our vocabulary.
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