Notes from John Forester's "The Deliberative Practitioner" MIT Press


Practice stories told and listen to in practice.
We learn from listening to practice stories as we learn from friends. And why do we learn from friends?
  1. We learn from friends because they tell stories that matter to us. They are appropriate, in the sense that they are designed to matter to us.
  2. We learn from friends because they help us to know not only how the world works, but how we work.
  3. We learn from friends because they do not speak to us in formulas, they see the complexity we face and they do not offer us simplistc cure-alls. Friends have a keen grasp of the particulars seen in the light of more general principles and goals, thus allowing us to see more clearly, to remember what we need.
  4. We learn from friends because they help u sto deliberate. When we are stuck, we often turn to friends to remind us of commitments we have lost touch with, of things we are forgetting.
  5. Finally, we learn from friends because they present us with a world of experience and passion, of affect and emotion.
We learn from practice stories as we learn from friends in many ways. Both help us to see anew our practical situation, our possibilities, our interests and our values.
Aristotle in his Ethics distinguished various types of friendship. At the top of the scale he put a friendship in which friends seek not only for the pleasure and the benefit of association but far more: one another’s virtue and excellence. This is a friendship of mutual concern, of care and respect.
But neither stories nor friends provide us with decision rules for all situations. All we can get is detail, messiness and particulars.
 That messiness of practice stories is an important part of their power. It tells us that before problems are solved, they have to be constructed, formulated. We have to resist the rush to interpreation in order to very carefully listen to. If we get the story wrong, the many techniqus we know may very well not help us much at all.

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