Positionality and the Collaborative Process

Dr. Tony Cheng and Tammy Randall-Parker have published a new paper in Society and Natural Resources titled “Examining the Influence of Positionality in Evaluating Collaborative Progress in Natural Resource Management: Reflections of an Academic and a Practitioner”

Read the article here.

In this paper, we present a reflexive examination of how and why we, an academic and a practitioner, arrive at different evaluations of collaborative progress in natural resource management. We situate this examination in our long-standing involvement in designing, adaptively managing, and participating in the Uncompahgre Plateau collaborative forest restoration project in western Colorado, USA. Drawing on the concept of “positionality” in qualitative social science research, we disclose our respective motivations, assumptions, roles, and power relative to the collaborative process. The differences in evaluating collaborative progress stem from our respective professional positionality. For the academic, the guiding interest was to test theory and promote success for his applied research institute; for the practitioner, the motivation was to build trust to allow her field staff the flexibility to implement management actions and demonstrate effectiveness as an agency line officer. These epistemological differences draw attention to the importance of transdisciplinary approaches to producing knowledge from shared practice, starting with efforts to explicitly disclose and honor differing interests, assumptions, and frames of reference stemming from each party’s personal and professional biographies and institutional norms. This reflexivity is essential to advancing knowledge about collaboration in natural resource management.