Below are some starter resources for instructors and students interested in applying EcoTypes toward engagement across difference.
"Engagement" is used to mean all sorts of things: just look at the divergent forms of engagement listed on the Wikipedia civic engagement page! Engagement must mean something more focused than action if the concept is to be useful. Fortunately there are good resources, such as this recent publication (Proctor et al. 2018) on environmental engagement; look also at resource links in the accordion tab below.
Here is a quote from that recent paper that attempts to define engagement based on the history of the word, stressing three Cs (connection/commitment/communication):
…the etymology of engagement, dating from the early seventeenth century, suggests a much richer meaning. We all know its common use in the context of intimate relationships: here, engagement is "The fact of being engaged to be married; betrothal" (OED Online). Engagement is etymologically associated with a variety of notions, not all romantic: attachment, entanglement, even the clashing of swords.
One way to summarize this rich history involves three Cs: connection, commitment, and communication. Connection is key to engagement, as one always engages with someone or something else. Commitment is key to many historical uses of engagement (including but not limited to marital engagement), and may be especially important in the troubled times we face today. In this sense, engagement is never a one-off action; it is always an enduring process of attachment. Finally, communication, in the broadest sense, conveys the give-and- take in committed connections, such that engagement means to listen as well as to speak.
In the context of EcoTypes, engagement is a conversation across difference, where difference nominally means that participants embrace different poles of one or more EcoTypes axes or themes, or perhaps embrace the same pole in differing ways or for different reasons. As you know (e.g., from the EcoTypes FAQ page), disagreement is assumed in many realms of EcoTypes, from the poles of Axes and Themes to the Take Sides debate resources on each application topic.
The purpose of exploring disagreement is not to fight! It's to try and achieve something akin to what is depicted here as deep disagreement. Perhaps disagreement is not necessarily a bad thing: though indeed we can reach consensus on certain items such as the need for clean air and water, certain other items may lead us toward the deep disagreement we find evident in the three EcoTypes themes.
Perhaps this deep disagreement may lead to productive—though never unanimous—creative tension, and related conversations and actions. This is the space of opportunity represented by engagement across difference.
The paper on engagement cited above mentions four expanding scales of engagement: (a) among ourselves in the environmental community, (b) on college campuses, (c) with fellow Americans, and (d) toward a global cosmopolitics, all with examples. So, there can be many ways to engage—provided it remains mindful of those three Cs.
This EcoTypes site provides you resources to get started. If you prefer to engage around broad ideas, you could just mutually pick an axis or theme and go from there. But usually people prefer to engage around something more specific and concrete: this is the reason for those environmental topics, which even include Take Sides positions you could adopt as a role play!...sometimes doing engagement via role play is easier than doing it for real.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you engage across difference:
- Engagement requires a willingness to seek out someone whose environmental ideas differ from yours. Just doing this alone is a huge leap! You should congratulate yourself even if you just get this far, as many people rarely venture beyond those with whom they agree.
- Engagement requires the ability to appreciate paradox/creative tension/opposing truths. Remember that Niels Bohr quote: "The opposite of a truth is a falsehood. But the opposite of a profound truth is another profound truth." Paradox is, well, paradoxical! But EcoTypes prepares you well to consider it as a possibility.
- True to the three Cs, engagement requires trust & commitment among all participants— a promise to listen and keep trying. This is not easy! And sometimes it's impractical, given time limitations. If you are planning to do some engagement, set aside plenty of time.
Thankfully, there are some good online resources you may consult on engagement. The list below is just a starter.
- AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science & Technology: An excellent set of up-to-date resources on public engagement that resonate strongly with what you've read here. See Many Approaches, Theory of Change, and More Resources submenus. Their definition: "Public engagement with science describes intentional, meaningful interactions that provide opportunities for mutual learning between scientists and members of the public."
- International Environmental Communication Association: Not as up to date as AAAS site, but potentially helpful resources. Their mission is to "…foster effective and inspiring communication that alleviates environmental issues and conflicts, and solves the problems that cause them."
- Engagement: Connection/Commitment/Communication: A blog post reflecting on the etymology of engagement, and implications for environmental engagement.
- Models of Environmental Communication: A bibliographic resource prepared by Lewis & Clark's Environmental Studies Program, including summary and key readings related to classic (deficit) model, framing models, and contemporary (dialogic) models; the latter resonates with the approach to engagement summarized here.
- "Environmental Engagement in Troubled Times: A Manifesto": The 2018 paper referred to in several places above. See here for a post providing background on this paper.