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The Handbook is divided into six modules. Three of the modules reflect basic questions that apply to any situation: what are the problems people face and must explore, who are the stakeholders or actors affected by a situation or with the capacity to intervene, and what options or alternatives for action do people need to consider and assess? Practitioners can combine these tools with all-purpose tools for fact-finding and listening. All-purpose tools apply to any topic where you need to gather, organize, analyse and communicate information on peoples' knowledge and views of reality. They also help you select the best forum and participation strategies to meet your needs.
Another module of tools is for understanding systems in a complex world. This includes Domain Analysis, our social adaptation of Personal Construct Psychology developed by George Kelly. Domain Analysis shows how stakeholders view a domain or topic area; it allows participants to create and organize elements, and their characteristics, within the domain. The method uncovers ways people make sense of reality in context and helps create opportunities for problem solving and learning. Systems Dynamics is our adaptation of input-output reasoning used in economics. It helps identify entry points into a system, based on an assessment of how elements interact to create specific behaviours and situations.
The last module is about the full tapestry, not the threads. Its focus is on creating systems that learn and developing skills to mix, balance, and integrate tools, dialogue, and careful reasoning. Since the basic questions on problems, actors and options depend on and interact with each other, there can be no fixed point of entry into a diagnostic process for all situations. The skillful means described in this module help you select the point of entry that best suits your context. They show you how to sequence and adapt the tools in a way that is meaningful and deals with complexity. This addresses a tendency within PAR to focus on quick-and-easy techniques, and to ignore thinking about what tool to use, when, and why.
Software can help practitioners scale up, visualize, and formalize the findings of group discussions and share results in ways that engage rigorous minds.
CLIP is an original web application to support use of the tool Social Analysis C.L.I.P. in the Knowing the Actors module. The tool helps you create profiles of the parties involved in a core problem or proposed action based on four factors: 1) existing relations of Collaboration and Conflict 2) Legitimacy, 3) Interests, and 4) Power. CLIP is an open-source application using Adobe Air, a free runtime platform for web applications you first need to download to your computer. You can then register. Once the web application is running, enter and save data directly online for display and remote sharing with others you authorize. The data is stored on our server for online use and on your computer for offline use. Print the Table results from the web application using normal printer connections, or export the Table file to a .svg format for refinements in graphics software such as Adobe Illustrator. The web application currently operates in English, French, and Spanish. Contact us if you would like permission to further develop the CLIP web application or create other language versions.
Rep V and its web-based version WebGrid V are software tools developed at the University of Calgary for use in Personal Construct Psychology, inspired by the work of George Kelly. The software can be used with data from the various Domain Analysis tools in the Understanding Systems module to do cluster analyses and principal component analyses. These tools help you examine how people view a topic area using words and characteristics that participants themselves choose and define. The earlier version, Rep IV, is a free download.
Common spreadsheet software such as MS Excel includes a graphics function that supports various SAS2 Dialogue tools. For example, you can use the graph Radar in Excel to display and compare ratings generated with The Socratic Wheel, in the Fact-Finding and Listening module. You can also modify the XY (Scatter) plot to display a Cartesian Graph used in tools such as Validation. For the System Dynamics tools, we offer an MS Excel template you can modify to meet your needs.
Mindmapping software, available commercially and as free downloads, lends itself to creating visual plans using the SAS2 Dialogue tool Process Management in the module on Systems that Learn. Users can populate mindmaps with hyperlinks to files sitting on a web-server such as Dropbox to create shareable and easy-to-edit planning documents. Many other simple and free applications of Web2 technologies are also possible, helping to co-create and facilitate visual approaches to collaborative inquiry. Contact us if you develop a spreadsheet application or discover a web tool for use with one of the tools on this site. We will publicize it, with appropriate acknowledgements.