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Building A Reflexive practice

Kaufman states, “[I]n order to see the big picture you have to have an understanding of the more narrow view through which you see the world”. Although learning to be reflexive is Sisyphean in nature, I like Kaufmann’s advice, “to talk with people, listen to their stories, observe their realities, read about the obstacles (or advantages) they face, and share with them your own experiences" is important,and the more you do this, the more critically introspective you will become. And as you develop this deeper reflexivity, you will simultaneously cultivate your sociological imagination (Kaufman, 2012).


In professions where empathy is essential, one must make sure to take time and develop a reflective practice. Reflexivity, curiosity and a broad range of experiences give useful balance and meaning to academic education and a well-honed skillset portfolio. In a world where empathy, ideas and problem-solving are highly sought-after talents, one’s reflective practice makes a world of difference.


This month I  joined a SPAB work party helping to repair the Tibbermore Church in Perthshire, Scotland. An excellent experience, and fully recommended. Over 4 days, the work party were taught lime harling, roof slating, interior lime plastering and plenty more besides. We stayed on-site in tents and worked through the day with and under the guidance of professional craftspeople who happily shared their knowledge and experiences. The work was tiring, messy and demanding. It wasn’t long before one's mind began to appreciate the site, the building, the work, the construction material, the climate and the project team dynamic through a different and very useful lens. Time had adopted a different site-orientated meaning with routines structured in practical and practised ways. Human things didn’t change, social skills were required, and a sense of humour was needed (often in response to site conditions, mistakes, weather and managerial decision-making). There were stories shared at tea breaks and around the fire in the evening, tales of past projects, other buildings, people, techniques, hardship, friendships and achievements. These four days were crammed with self-reflection/development, challenges and opportunities to improve one's “sociological imagination”. 


Reflective practice helps when working in post-conflict places, it keeps you observant when helping and including people. It also improves foresight whilst developing plans for reconstruction and development or overseeing project progress. These experiences help me understand a wider perspective when I make site visits, meet construction teams, take part in project management meetings, and assess tenders or funding applications. They help frame the conversations when asking local craftspeople to build or repair something and the conditions required to make that happen on time and within budget.  Mostly though a good reflective practice helps me relate to and engage with people as they help me see the bigger picture.


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