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An emerging conceptual framework

Introduction

What is a conceptual framework?

The Universal House of Justice defined a conceptual framework as “a matrix that organizes thought and gives shape to activities and which becomes more elaborate as experience accumulates.”  UHJ. July 24, 2013.

In original academic research, a researcher may develop their conceptual framework based on a thorough, robust or major literature review of existing theories, frameworks and models to “identify various concepts in the literature concerning a phenomena, the relationships between these various concepts, as well as their respective theoretical bases”.  

A conceptual framework is defined by a set of basic ontological, epistemological and methodological beliefs, attitudes and assumptions, values (axiology), and concepts.

In his useful 2009 article on “Building a Conceptual Framework: Philosophy, Definitions, and Procedure” Yosef Jabareen, proposed a “qualitative method for building conceptual frameworks for phenomena that are linked to multidisciplinary bodies of knowledge”  that might prove useful useful in the investigation of complex social phenomena linked to diverse bodies of knowledge that overlap disciplines. Jarabeen defines a “conceptual framework as a network, or “a plane,” of interlinked concepts that together provide a comprehensive understanding of a phenomenon or phenomena (Jarabeen 2009:51).”

Intellectual life of the Bahá’í community in Calgary and its involvement in the discourses of society.

What modest contributions can we contribute in Calgary to this conversation on an emerging conceptual framework?

In their letter to the NSA of Canada in July 2013, UHJ suggested,

“a number of small seminars could be held to assist individuals from certain professions or academic disciplines to examine some aspect of the discourse of their field. Specific topics could be selected, and a group of participants with experience could share articles, prepare papers, and consult on contemporary perspectives and related Bahá’í concepts. Special interest groups, such as philosophy or religious studies, could have gatherings to intensify their efforts. Periodic communications or follow-up meetings could be arranged to increase the effectiveness of the participation of these groups of individuals in aspects of the discourse in their chosen fields. Focus could also be directed toward those areas in the academic literature pertaining to the Faith that are ignored or dealt with in a misleading or problematic manner. In addition, existing activities, such as the hosting of a large conference, may be reimagined. Of course, continued exertions must be directed toward preparing and disseminating articles, periodicals, and books.”

Evolving conversation in the larger Baha’i community

A chronology…

In 2010 Canadian ABS sent an inquiry to the UHJ. On 24 July 2013 the NSA of Canada received this correspondence from the UHJ entitled “Intellectual life and the future of Bahá’í studies” referencing that inquiry.

There were two papers delivered at the Association for Bahá’í Studies–North America 35th Annual Conference entitled “Transforming Habits of Thought” held from August 11 to August 14 in 2011 in San Francisco that specifically used the term conceptual framework – Darren Hedley’s ’  “Individuals, Institutions and Communities – A Useful Framework for Shaping Habits of Thought in International Development?” and Farzin Aghdasi’s “An Instrument Tempered in the Crucible of Experience: Training Institutes and Habits of Thought.” Farzin “ He examined “the construction of a conceptual framework for learning and social action that avoids fragmentation, dichotomy, and rigidity” by looking at “institutes at the frontiers of this learning process.”

In 2013 the UHJ undertook a series of consultations on the “intellectual life of the Bahá’í community and its greater involvement in the life of society.”

“[T]here are “a great many Bahá’ís who are engaged as individuals in social action and public discourse through their occupations.” Every believer has the opportunity to examine the forces operating in society and introduce relevant aspects of the teachings within the discourses prevalent in whatever social space he or she is present. It is, perhaps, as a means to enhance the abilities of the friends to explore such opportunities in relation to their scholarly interests that the endeavours of the Association for Bahá’í Studies can be conceived. Through the specialized settings it creates, the Association can promote learning among a wide range of believers across a wide range of disciplines.” 24 July 2013 UHJ

“Central to the effort to advance the work of expansion and consolidation, social action, and the involvement in the discourses of society is the notion of an evolving conceptual framework, a matrix that organizes thought and gives shape to activities and which becomes more elaborate as experience accumulates. It would be fruitful if the elements of this framework most relevant to the work of the Associations for Bahá’í Studies can be consciously and progressively clarified. In this respect, it may be useful to give consideration to insights that have contributed to the community’s progress: the relationship between study and action, the need for focus, which is not to be confused with uniformity, the challenge of fostering the capacity of individuals and accompanying others in service, the dynamics of organic development, the institutional arrangements necessary to sustain ever more complex patterns of activity, the coherence required among all areas of endeavour, and sound relations among individuals, the community, and the institutions. Perhaps the most important of these is learning in action; the friends participate in an ongoing process of action, reflection, study, and consultation in order to address obstacles and share successes, re-examine and revise strategies and methods, and systematize and improve efforts over time.” 24 July 2013 UHJ

“As unity of thought around essential concepts emerges, the Association may find it useful to explore fresh approaches with some simple steps that can grow in complexity. Gradually, those aspects of the conceptual framework pertaining to intellectual inquiry in diverse fields will become clearer and grow richer. For example, a number of small seminars could be held to assist individuals from certain professions or academic disciplines to examine some aspect of the discourse of their field. Specific topics could be selected, and a group of participants with experience could share articles, prepare papers, and consult on contemporary perspectives and related Bahá’í concepts. Special interest groups, such as philosophy or religious studies, could have gatherings to intensify their efforts. Periodic communications or follow-up meetings could be arranged to increase the effectiveness of the participation of these groups of individuals in aspects of the discourse in their chosen fields. Focus could also be directed toward those areas in the academic literature pertaining to the Faith that are ignored or dealt with in a misleading or problematic manner. In addition, existing activities, such as the hosting of a large conference, may be reimagined. Of course, continued exertions must be directed toward preparing and disseminating articles, periodicals, and books.” 24 July 2013 UHJ

Meetings

December 2016

At our first meeting in December, a few of us met at the Hedley’s home we read,

“Intellectual life and the future of Bahá’í studies” by/on behalf of Universal House of Justice 2013-07-24 Abstract: ”Observations on the current state of intellectual pursuits in the Baha’i community and guidance for the Association for Baha’i Studies of North America and training institutes.”

“As unity of thought around essential concepts emerges, the Association may find it useful to explore fresh approaches with some simple steps that can grow in complexity. Gradually, those aspects of the conceptual framework pertaining to intellectual inquiry in diverse fields will become clearer and grow richer. For example, a number of small seminars could be held to assist individuals from certain professions or academic disciplines to examine some aspect of the discourse of their field. Specific topics could be selected, and a group of participants with experience could share articles, prepare papers, and consult on contemporary perspectives and related Bahá’í concepts. Special interest groups, such as philosophy or religious studies, could have gatherings to intensify their efforts. Periodic communications or follow-up meetings could be arranged to increase the effectiveness of the participation of these groups of individuals in aspects of the discourse in their chosen fields. Focus could also be directed toward those areas in the academic literature pertaining to the Faith that are ignored or dealt with in a misleading or problematic manner. In addition, existing activities, such as the hosting of a large conference, may be reimagined. Of course, continued exertions must be directed toward preparing and disseminating articles, periodicals, and books.” 24 July 2013 UHJ

Arbab, Haleh. October 1, 2015. “Learning to Read Social Reality in the Light of the Revelation” The Journal of Baha’i Studies. Vol. 25, No. 3. 2015 Video

“It is important to emphasize here that what we would like a group of interested individuals to do with our help is not to attempt field research on some aspect of migration in relation to a specific population. For now, we are only concerned with a first step in research, in forming as thoroughly as possible a picture of the state of knowledge in an area of inquiry. The material for the study of our group, then, would be the studies conducted by others, their observations, their thoughts, and their conclusions. This approach might sound like a literature review in a university course, but our task is really far more complex. The question before us is this: If a group of people with training in relevant fields examines the body of observations made about the phenomenon in question, scrutinizes the analyses already offered by others, sorts through their conclusions, and at the same time explores the Bahá’í Writings for ideas that shed light on the issues at hand, will their understanding of the phenomenon be greater than prevalent understanding?” page 35

“In response to such concerns, we invite students in our programs to reflect on elements of the conceptual framework that guides Bahá’í participation in the discourses of society, enabling them to take ownership of their education and to prepare themselves adequately to make contributions to their fields without sacrificing their religious beliefs, or without compartmentalizing them into a segregated part of their lives reserved for religious belief.” page 34

We also read this one-page article on Conceptual Framework by The Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity

“As an initial step toward the elaboration of this conceptual framework, the Institute is drafting five concept papers on core concepts that are relevant to a wide range of contemporary discourses. These core concepts are: oneness, justice, knowledge, power, and human nature.”

Did we decide to view Bani Dugal‘s presentation  Reflections on Engagement in Discourses at the International Level before the next meeting in January 2017? This talk – and other similar ABS talks – that was the catalyst compelling me to read more about an emerging conceptual framework.

Webliography

Arbab,  Haleh. August 2007. “Generation of Knowledge and the Advancement of Civilization” Based on a plenary talk by Dr. Arbab, presented at the Annual Conference of the Association for Bahá’í Studies – North America. Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

Arbab, Haleh. October 1, 2015. “Learning to Read Social Reality in the Light of the RevelationThe Journal of Baha’i Studies. Vol. 25, No. 3. 2015. Video.

“One of the main concerns ISGP has been addressing is its own attitude toward the existing body of knowledge of humankind, which is, of course, growing at an astounding rate. As Bahá’ís, we believe that this is the age of humanity’s…

“It is important to emphasize here that what we would like a group of interested individuals to do with our help is not to attempt field research on some aspect of migration in relation to a specific population. For now, we are only concerned with a first step in research, in forming as thoroughly as possible a picture of the state of knowledge in an area of inquiry. The material for the study of our group, then, would be the studies conducted by others, their observations, their thoughts, and their conclusions. This approach might sound like a literature review in a university course, but our task is really far more complex. The question before us is this: If a group of people with training in relevant fields examines the body of observations made about the phenomenon in question, scrutinizes the analyses already offered by others, sorts through their conclusions, and at the same time explores the Bahá’í Writings for ideas that shed light on the issues at hand, will their understanding of the phenomenon be greater than prevalent understanding?”

Aghdasi, Farzin. August 14, 2011. “An Instrument Tempered in the Crucible of Experience: Training Institutes and Habits of Thought”

Farzin Aghdasi’s paper “An Instrument Tempered in the Crucible of Experience: Training Institutes and Habits of Thought” noted in his abstract that “Materialistic assumptions about reality shape a worldview that often exhibits stark contradictions.”  He examined “the construction of a conceptual framework for learning and social action that avoids fragmentation, dichotomy, and rigidity” by looking at “institutes at the frontiers of this learning process. Farzin “was a Bahá’í pioneer in Africa much of his adult life and intimately involved in training institute development in Southern Africa and North America. He served as a Continental Counsellor for the Americas. He holds a PhD in Electrical Engineering, and lives with his wife and two children.”

Farid-Arbab, Sona. 2012. Moral empowerment: elements of a conceptual framework for education. Institute of Education, University of London. PhD dissertation. 230 pp.

“…to identify the essential elements of the evolving conceptual framework under consideration. Nurturing understanding is argued to be central to the desired educational process, necessitating a critical examination of the `subject’ and the ‘object’ of understanding, and how the ‘process of understanding’ is shaped by them. Nurturing understanding must go hand in hand with the development of a number of spiritual qualities. For this to be achieved, the historical view holding science and religion in opposition should give way to the perspective that they are two complementary systems of knowledge and practice. The integration of knowledge into the content of the teaching-learning experience demands that sharp division between the cognitive and the motivational, between reason and faith, be avoided. The concept of ‘capability’ discussed in relation to both being and doing, is presented as an effective strategy for this purpose, with the potential to overcome certain dichotomies prevalent in educational thought and practice (Farid-Arbab 2012:3).”

Farid-Arbab, Sona. October, 2016. Moral Empowerment: In Quest of a Pedagogy. Product Code: MEQPT ISBN: 978-1-61851-111-9. Baha’i Publishing Trust, USA.

“Author Sona Farid-Arbab’s illuminating work on Moral Empowerment is carried out on the basis of two central premises: that we live in an age of transition from humanity’s childhood to its maturity, and that a fundamental characteristic of this age is the growing consciousness of the oneness of humankind. Taking these premises to heart, Arbab explores a philosophical framework capable of guiding educational programs seeking the moral empowerment of students. Such efforts focus not only on the development of the student’s capacity to pursue their own intellectual and spiritual growth, but on the students’ active engagement in the long-term transformation of their communities. Drawing heavily on the experience of FUNDAEC—a Bahá’í-inspired organization whose work in the field of education and the empowerment of populations has been ground-breaking and influential—Farid-Arbab examines concepts such as power, understanding, integration, and capability in the light of relevant philosophical literature, and makes an invaluable contribution to discourse in the fields of education and community development.” Baha’i Bookstore

Dugal, Bani. Reflections on Engagement in Discourses at the International Level.

Hedley, Darren. August 14, 2011.  “Individuals, Institutions and Communities – A Useful Framework for Shaping Habits of Thought in International Development?” Association for Bahá’í Studies–North America 35th Annual Conference. “Transforming Habits of Thought”. 11–14 August 2011. San Francisco Airport Marriott San Francisco, California, USA.

Darren examined “the idea of transformation – through the trichotomy of individual, community and institutions” as a potential “useful conceptual framework for social and economic development efforts in the wider global community? He examined “current development thinking and practice to demonstrate how this conception could help to highlight the multi-faceted nature of international development, and to affirm that it is spiritually transformative in its core.” Darren is a “program and policy management consultant working with TANGO International” who “has worked for 20 years in international development, including 14 years resident in Russia, Zambia and Cuba. His recently-awarded PhD in public policy focuses on multi-stakeholder networks for urban poverty reduction and water supply management.”

The  Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity (ISGP) “Justice and the Oneness of Humankind” in “Contributing to the Advancement of Civilization:  Towards a Framework.” Lazos Learning.

Their target audience is young adults (under 35) who have completed an undergraduate degree. It might be helpful to have access to some of their core material.

“An 8-week graduate-level course that explores a framework within which an individual concerned with the transformation of society acts and reflects on action. The course consists of three chapters, examining the nature of an evolving conceptual framework that governs our thought and action as we strive to contribute to the advancement of civilization; and a discussion of two fundamental elements of the framework – the oneness of humankind and justice.”

ISCP. “Conceptual Framework.”

A one-page article on conceptual framework.

Jabareen, Yosef. 2009. “Building a Conceptual Framework: Philosophy, Definitions, and Procedure. International Journal of Qualitative Studies. Volume 8. Number 4. Pages 49-62.

Saiedi, Nader. “The Birth of the Human Being: Beyond Religious Traditionalism and Materialist Modernity.” Journal of Bahá’í Studies, 21, pages 1-28 Ottawa: Association for Baha’i Studies North America, 2011. YouTube video

Towfigh, Leili. (Ed.) 2006. “Opening a Space: The Discourse on Science, Religion and Development in Uganda. Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity. Kampala, Uganda. YouTube video. C. 33 minutes.

Universal House of Justice (UHJ). 24 July 2013. “Intellectual life and the future of Bahá’í studies”  In 2010 Canadian ABS sent an inquiry to the UHJ. On 24 July 2013 the NSA of Canada received this correspondence from the UHJ referencing that inquiry.

Further reading

Lennard, Natasha, Wolfe, Cary. January 9, 2017. “Is Humanism Really Humane?” The Stone. New York Times.

Cary Wolfe from the Center for Critical and Cultural Theory at Rice University, discusses post-humanism, in light of the interdisciplinary systems theory. She challenges the concept of the “self” and the relationship between humans and nature, that has been adopted by “nearly all of our political and legal institutions”  from the Enlightenment period when “humanism flourished and consolidated its domain.” She argues “that everything in our culture encourages us to invest in the Enlightenment concept of self “for economic and legal reasons.”

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