1st Edition

Understanding Phenomenological Reflective Practice in the Social and Ecological Fields Three Rivers Flowing

By Peter Westoby Copyright 2022
    232 Pages
    by Routledge

    232 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book introduces social practitioners - community development workers, social workers, organisational change facilitators, social, ecological, cultural and political activists - to a phenomenological tradition of reflective practice.

    Critiquing reductionist, linear and ossified thinking in the social and ecological fields, the book offers an exciting new alternative that is honouring of the uncertainty of all living and therefore emergent social processes. Linking phenomenology and Goethe’s ‘delicate empiricism’, the book challenges practitioners to observe and work with living processes.

    As such, the book charts two stories, two inquiries. One personal and the other social. The first is the personal phenomenological inquiry into the author’s own practice, a search to make sense of the nuanced and subtle practice that he brings to the social world.

    The second journey is the inquiry into how this social practice, shaped as it is by a confluence of three rivers – dialogue and community, soul and depth psychology, Goethe and ‘delicate activism’, along with other thinkers on ‘observation’ and ‘aliveness’ – can be understood in the context of a wider phenomenological reflective practice.

    This second journey draws on years of experience and research in Brazil, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and parts of Europe. Presenting a philosophical, personal and practical analysis, it offers a new approach to observation and action, while working with aliveness and complexity within the social and ecological fields.

    It will be of interest to all scholars and students of social work and community development and particularly courses on social complexity.

    1.Essay 1: Three Rivers Flowing.  2.Interlude 1: The Research Journey.  3.Essay 2: Contours of the Practice.  4.Essay 3: Borderlands of the Practice.  5.Essay 4: Elemental One – Observation and Developing a Faculty of Seeing.  6.Essay 5: Elemental Two – Working with Aliveness.  7.Interlude 2: Andreas Weber and a Philosophy of Enlivenment.  8.Essay 6: Elemental Three – Working with the Phenomenon – "From the ‘Inside-Out".  9.Interlude 3: Hillman, Watkins, ‘Ensouling the Social’ and Notitia.  10.Essay 7: Elemental Four – Expanding Consciousness.  11.Story 1: A Story and Portrayal of Practice in the Social Field – Hummingbird House.  12.Interlude 4: François Jullien, Climate Change and COVID-19.  13.Story 2: A Story and Portrayal of Practice in the Ecological Field – the Bioregion of Maleny.  14.Essay 8: Is the Practice Effective?.  15.Essay 9: The Practice and Ethics.  16.Essay 10: A Question about [Critical] Theory.  17.Essay 11: Promissory Reflections.  18.Postscript: Many Rivers Flowing.


    As a scholar Peter works, teaches and researches on the borderlands between community development and other disciplines and fields of practice, from phenomenology, dialogue, depth psychology, peace and conflict and forced migration. He has worked in the fields of youth, community and organisation development for over 30 years, in places as far afield as South Africa, Uganda, Vanuatu, PNG, Nepal, Philippines, Brazil and Australia. Peter has been a writer or co-writer/editor of 15 books and over 55 professional journal articles.

    At the time of finishing this book he is:

    • Director/consultant at Community Praxis Co-op, a consulting and training organisation with a vision of more just, peaceful and sustainable communities
    • A part-time community development practitioner at Hummingbird House, a hospice for children with life-limiting illness
    • A custodian of the Camellia Centre for Soul-Work and Reflective Practice
    • A visiting professor, University of the Free State, South Africa
    • An honorary associate professor at Deakin University, Australia
    • An adjunct associate professor at Queensland University of Technology, Australia

    "In this magisterial work on the phenomenological tradition of reflective practice, Peter Westoby displays a unique level of empathy and total moral and intellectual sincerity. Peter Westoby’s Understanding Phenomenological Reflective Practice in the Social and Ecological Fields has the potential to be a defining work in Community Development, the entry ticket for any serious discussion on how we dialogically and generatively engage with living processes. This book will enlighten and enliven all who deeply engage with it and apply its teachings in context and authentic practice."    Cormac Russell, Asset-Based Community Development Institute