[PIG] Weeky Update: Shoreline Adaptations

I’m tardy posting this update this week, because it’s been so busy! Also, I should note that Danielle is still in SE Asia at the moment, so I’m posting this update without her review/good edits.

What did you accomplish (in the) last (two) week(s)?

  • Two weeks ago: Danielle and I spent the prior week in Singapore, attending the Nusantara workshop, before spending a few days, on our own, doing some shoreline research on site. We were unable to meet with as many experts, in person, as we hoped in Singapore, given the short timeline we were in town, but we toured a lot of actual shorelines, getting a feel for what large, highly coordinated, centrally planned adaptation looks like in a place with long-term risk but (surprisingly) limited exposure to SLR impacts in the short-term.
  • Site-specific research:
    • I’ve been reading through case studies on some of our target cities and digging deeper into the existing climate change and waterfront design protocols/guidelines that exist at various local and federal levels.
    • Danielle has been in Bangkok doing some additional research there, meeting with a variety of contacts including an oceanographer, a former UN rep, and the Porous City Network founder (and an architect responsible for some amazing community design projects in SE Asia addressing urban flooding). Looking forward to getting her download when she’s back.
  • Public engagement research
    • Lit Review: I’ve been doing a bit of a literature review on public engagement practices/protocols in an urban design context, trying to focus specifically on academic literature that deals with urban flooding/SLR/climate adaptation projects. There’s a large body of work here that I’d like us to be more familiar with as we design our interventions.
    • Public engagement prototyping: I’ve been working on some public engagement/outreach on a waterfront project here in Brooklyn. I’m learning useful insights for the toolkit that we hope to design, and have some ideas I’m excited to discuss with Danielle when she’s back. I’ll write a longer post about that soon.
  1. What do you plan to do next week?
  • Definitely some consolidating of what we’ve learned in the past few weeks. As mentioned last week, our strategy is two weeks of expansion, one week of contraction; next week is our focusing week. I think we’ll have some good drafts coming out of next week.
  • More expert interviews, reading research, and some local NYC and online events relevant to our work.
  1. What (if anything) is blocking your progress?
  • Nothing to name this week!
  1. Fun insight/tidbit, link, or idea?

I read this piece on “ground rules” that I thought others might find interesting on the general protocols front. I am finding it fruitful for thinking about our project, specifically, but I think it has some generally interesting ideas overall.

Some excerpts from the paper that might pique your interest:

Table 1. What distinguishes ground rules from rules.

Rules Ground rules
Source Hierarchical: the organization, the leader The team itself, emergent
Goal Control Coordination, mutual adjustment
Number Few or many Typically, few
Limits Coercion Can be (officially/formally) ignored; informally, their capacity to regulate team members behaviors depends on their social-normative strength

Whatever the type, ground rules play several important team functions: clarifying expectations, promoting participation, imposing a measure of self-discipline, coordinating behaviors, assisting self-correction, and neutralizing negative behaviors and providing scaffolding for managing paradoxes. An additional function, one that is less explored, is that they assist teams in managing their paradoxes.

Table 4. How ground rules help handle paradoxes.

Ground rules… But they…
Are norms Are voluntary
Introduce predictability Promote autonomy
Emphasize the collective Tolerate diversity
Are central to action Are unobtrusive
Promote self-discipline Have collective reach
Serve as a control mechanism Preserve freedom
Are not formally enforced Are informally observed

The piece frames its exploration around a notion of teams as “a relational network of interdependent agents … not created by assembling X-number of members; it must be developed by its members.” This is similar to how I would think about stakeholders within a community planning process, where there is a need to support “collective sensemaking” … “in a way that accepts their inherent contradictions, instead of trying to suppress them.”

This article is part of a body of “paradox theory” within organizational/corporate research. From a different article:

This concept of paradox—defining as “contradictory yet interrelated elements that exist simultaneously and persist over time” (Smith & Lewis, 2011, p. 382)—is bounded by three core characteristics:

  • Opposition paradoxes involve organizational elements that “seem logical in isolation, but absurd and irrational when appearing simultaneously” (Lewis, 2000).
  • Interdependence these opposing elements must be inextricably related; they must be “two sides of the same coin” (Lewis, 2000).
  • Persistence these tensions cannot be definitively resolved because they “persist over time” (Smith & Lewis, 2011, p. 382).

The concept of paradox has been used by scholars to investigate multiple issues, as paradox theory is a theoretical lens that can offer useful insights into a variety of organizational phenomena (Lewis & Smith, 2014), such as change (Lüscher & Lewis, 2008), coopetition (Raza-Ullah, 2020), hybridity (Smith & Besharov, 2019), identity (Sheep et al., 2017), innovation and ambidexterity (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009), and leadership (Lewis et al., 2014; Smith et al., 2010). Recently, it has also been adopted to investigate sustainability issues because of its ability to offer better insights into the complexity of corporate sustainability (Hahn et al., 2014, 2015, 2018).

This seems to intersect in an interesting way with our exploration of protocols, although I’m still feeling my way through how to write about it; in the interest of trying to work in public, though, I’ll at least gesture at some of the threads I’m pulling on, instead of worrying that the ideas are too vague to write down.

  • One big reason I was interested in participating in the SoP is that I have been in trying to think about how we (humans) do things together in an increasingly heterogenous/distributed world. This is something I am often confronted with in my “day job” leading strategy and audience work for journalism/news orgs. It’s a huge challenge of mobilizing around climate change adaptation. And in all of the instances I see, there’s a kind of constant need to toggle between contradictory modes/live with ambiguity — and this research seems to at least probe at the kinds of problems I’m interested in.
  • Another jumping off point for me currently, however is this: In conversations with practitioners around adaptation planning, more than one source has mentioned their frustration with traditional, linear, engineering-lead design protocols. People have described them as lacking flexibility, or as poor tools for navigating the high degree of uncertainty posed by climate change and the need to take a more continuously adaptive approach.
  • The “ground rules” framework feels like a step toward thinking about practices that might inform protocol improvements that disrupt this kind of rigid, hierarchy-driven protocol and get us to something more interesting.

I would love to hear other’s impressions and/or questions about this line of thinking!