Using creative holism to inform new partnerships as a component of responsivity in the FET sector.
I see my research as an exercise in critical systemic practice, expressed as Creative Holism, an approach to organisational research in complex problematical situations attributed to Jackson (2003; 2006), which informs my living theory, attributed to Whitehead (2008), of educating professional practitioners. I make the argument that my personal understanding of my role as a university lecturer includes a strong element of being an agent of transformation in that I am not merely conveying knowledge about a field or about a profession but am, in a sense, an embodiment of that knowledge. Moreover, I take ownership of the direction, focus and biases in my own knowledge and research because they are part of who I am and are a result of my limited perspective. By way of example, I provide a rationale for and inform a professional identity construction, namely new partnerships. I consider this within a context, namely students involved in a particular study in Further Education and Training (FET) who happen to be college managers. The concept of new partnerships and the linked leadership construct of connective leadership are applied to this cadre. This research is also located within the ontology and epistemology of critical systems thinking and draws on the Creative Holism advocated by Jackson as a methodology. Moreover, it defines living theory as a systemic methodology and locates it within the Creative Holism typology of systems methodologies. My thesis adds to our examples of the application of Creative Holism. It focuses on the institutional problem situations in which the FET managers are situated, especially as they do or do not focus on partnerships within their professional thinking. I use systems methodologies, within the Creative Holism framework, to inform those situations, and use a particular combination of methodologies within a critical systems rationale. In particular, I suggest that critical systems thinking provides a vehicle for my exploration of my living theory, especially as I elucidate my own thinking about various expressions of institutional life and the reality that such life for the individual can be liberating or confining and repressing. My broad value position is that organisational life should always hold out the possibility of living out one’s humanity with dignity and performing a worthwhile purpose in society. While I realise that for many, this is not their lived reality, it remains my espoused aspiration and a driver in and for my own work. In considering the work attributed to FET Colleges, I engage with new partnerships to provide a theoretical framework and refine this to focus on the strategic partnership capabilities and potential of FET Colleges. In doing this I integrate new partnerships as a field of study with critical systems thinking as a vehicle through which to investigate partnerships and build our knowledge of social partnerships. My purpose is to improve my understanding of social partnerships as it relates to FET and improve my practice in facilitating curriculum to FET practitioners. In using critical systems thinking, I use Soft Systems Methodology to draw up a set of recommendations and thereafter use Viable Systems Modelling to suggest a framework for engagement for improvement in the partnership capacity of the FET Colleges.