I was adviser to some research that had the goal of equipping people who use services to evaluate their own services. In the process, I learned how difficult it is to engage with this process without succumbing to the temptation to take over. It was difficult to remind the researcher not to prepare a proposal in advance of the first meeting. This felt as though it violated a principle of efficiency. As the project developed, I found it hard to hear about people struggling with tasks and to caution the researcher not to say ‘don’t worry, I’ll do that for you.’ I had some useful feedback that while I thought I was behaving in an empowering way, my body language suggested otherwise. My colleague could guess what I was thinking even though I wasn’t saying it and had some hard questions to ask me about my ethical commitment to the task. From this, I learned that commitment to an empowering approach to research is far more complex than subscribing to some headlines of ‘dos and don’ts’. I need to be committed to every detail of the text. I also need to examine my approach holistically and not just what I say. This experience reminded me that practising reflectively is as much associated with a state of being as it is with carrying out a series of things that need doing.
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