A phenomenological study in understanding how paradigm shifts can occur
Wackerman, April Elizabeth
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The building industry is uniquely positioned in the context of contemporary societal trends as it was one of the industries hardest hit by the financial recession of 2007 and is one of the most environmentally unsustainable industries in the United States. While green building and sustainable design initially emerged as a way to affect change toward environmental sustainability, the share of global energy use from buildings continues to rise. Building leaders claim that in order to make a meaningful impact on looming environmental problems and pressures, an all-encompassing paradigm shift is needed in the building industry from an anthropocentric paradigm to one that more fully values and understands the interconnectedness between humans and nature. Little is known about what factors and activities facilitate transformative shifts in thinking for building professionals. This study examined the experiences of participants of the 2009 Whole Thinking Workshop hosted by the Center for Whole Communities in Vermont. The workshop was designed for leaders of environmental stewardship and social equality and included building and land use professionals. Like many professionals, the leaders in attendance were generally entrenched in their thinking and professional approach in their respective movements. The workshop provided a framework for leaders to explore their own biases and achieve a shift in thinking for how their work relates to the whole. The goal of the research was to understand and describe the participants' perception of the specific activities and factors of the workshop that facilitated a shift in their thinking. This study was conducted within a phenomenological framework and data were collected from participant observation, a focus group, and in-depth interviews. Three major themes emerged in the data and are characterized as dimensions of how to facilitate paradigm shifts in a workshop setting, and include: (1) Time, (2) Systems, and (3) Humanity. The Time Theme documented that time was a factor in facilitating paradigm shifts in two ways including an uninterrupted and appropriate amount of time during activities, in silence and during open dialogue, and time spent away from regular responsibilities. The Systems Theme documented the elements that created an environment conducive for shifting thinking, including shared understanding, diversity, safety, consistency, and engaging activities. The Humanity Theme documented elements that facilitated a shift in thinking by cultivating the quality of being human, including spirituality, contemplative practice, storytelling, aligning values, and open dialogue. This study provided insights to offer building professionals by revealing factors and activities of the Whole Thinking Workshop that were perceived as successfully facilitated shifts in thinking, therefore expanding understanding in how paradigm shifts can occur.Nobe, Mary Ellen C.