Denken en doen in dialoog : een methode voor behoeftenarticulatie en ontwikkeling

F.V. Heymann

    Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


    This thesis is about the articulation of needs and human development.

    Need articulation is a concept with double meaning. On the one hand it refers to a specific need-pattern of a person as the result of a developmental psychological process. On the other hand it refers to the way in which a person succeeds - sometimes with the help of professional intervention - in modelling his needs in a new way. The concept of need articulation is a theoretical construction, referring to the intra-psychological as well as to the relationship between the intra-psychological and the social and cultural environment. The concept, in practice, can be found under a series of different denominations, such as orientation, problem clarification, intake or need research. The background for this research were, amongst others, questions, which in practice are described as: 'how to reach target groups more effectively' and 'how to suit services better to the needs of clients'.

    The objective of this study is to theoretically clarify the concept of need articulation and to contribute to a methodological framework, which can be used to support the process of need articulation in practice.

    The problem definition of this research is subdivided in two questions.

    how can one understand the process of need articulation in human change?how can one transform the insights on need articulation into a methodological framework for professionals, including conditions for change?

    The process of need articulation is researched from two specific angles:

    the influence of the social, historical and cultural relations; individual and collective experiences have great influence;specific value-orientations, which arrive from the above mentioned point; the 'self' and 'the other' (the world) are perceived through different perspectives. These value-orientations influence the possibilities for need articulation.

    Because of these viewpoints much attention is given to the specific way the dominant worldview influences this process of need articulation. One can see this influence very clearly in three areas:

    the economising of social life and professional practices;the role of modern sciences;the pressure on people to act as 'autonomous subjects'.

    The design of this research was open-ended, with much emphasis on case-studies in connection with theoretical analysis.

    In the introduction and chapter 1 the problem definition is described, based upon an analysis of both theory and practice.

    Chapter 2 will account for the research method and its exploratory character. Gradually this research developed, based on insights from literature and a series of case study results. A variety of qualitative research methods was used, such as (narrative) interviews and participatory observations. Two premises have been playing an important role in this research. The first premise is that experiences of people give insight into their reality. It is only possible to really understand people if one looks at the way they give meaning to their experiences. The second premise is that the perspectives that colour peoples views are important sources of knowledge as well. People always share their world with others. For this reason it is necessary to gain insight into the way in which interactions take place and to understand the significance these interactions have for the participating actors.

    Chapters 3, 4 and 5 are the heart of this thesis.

    In chapter 3 the problem of need articulation is further examined in the context of modern society and the dominant world view. The first part of this chapter describes an analytical framework, which is then used to clarify the problem. Need articulation is not possible without a dialogue, which in its turn requires active participation of clients. In Habermassian words: dialogue means communicative action. However, this participation is problematic and becomes quite often merely strategic action because of the way the modern world-view influences professionals as well as clients.

    The three assumptions of the modern world-view, which have been named above, have consequences for the possibilities of need articulation. In order to demonstrate this, the analysis has been applied to extension and extension science. Both theory and practice are used to show how planning models, target group analysis and different methods are influenced by the assumptions of the dominant world-view.

    In the final part of this chapter the outlines of a different approach are sketched. The starting points of the new approach, called a dialogue through deconstruction, are in line with the current critical debate in the social sector. The concept of 'normative professionalism' is the crux of this movement for innovation.

    The approach aims to bring forward dialogue. In essence this only can be achieved by deconstructing the assumptions which professionals and clients hold. This means: to abolish the supposed neutrality of professionals; to let go of the idea that processes of change can be completely controlled; and to anchor active participation of clients by systematically exploring the inner- and outer perspectives of all parties involved.

    In chapter 4 an additional theoretical analysis for this dialogue through deconstruction follows. In part 1 the attention goes to human development and how need articulation is taking place. Needs are sometimes not modelled, but kept away. Also the phenomenon that need articulation of a person is 'coloured' by the dominant value-patterns of his social environment is described. Human development is the result of the interaction between the public domain and the private domain.

    Part two of this chapter will focus on the possibilities and conditions of human change. The concepts of 'zone of nearest development' and 'creative process' are at the core of this focus. The zone of nearest development shows how step-by-step change in need articulation can be understood. The creative process shows how every zone can be modelled in such a way that the process leads, step-by-step, to new need articulation.

    In chapter 5 a framework is described to discern, understand, monitor and support processes of need articulation in practice. With the aid of a variety of research material, derived from practical studies, the method is presented. Part 1 provides the general principles and the wide range of possible applications. With this method it becomes possible to reach target groups better and to support professionals to bring their services better in line with the needs of clients. Also, the method can help to improve the participation of target groups and bridge gaps between groups: in other words, the method is also important for inter-cultural communication.

    Two general principles are worked out, firstly the iterative and cyclic character of the method and secondly the principle of 'working with continuities'. The iterative character means that the target group analysis is performed through several cycles of analysis ánd experimenting. The second principle lies in working with continuities: the premise that the analysis and experimenting takes for granted the existence of different value-orientations, which can go together. The consequences of these principles are explained through a changed perspective on the concepts of target groups, goals and interventions. In part 2 the design and implementation of programmes are dealt with in more depth. The theory of chapter 4 and the different case-studies form the base-material. Activities are analysed on form and content. Finally, possibilities to improve participation are described.

    Part 3 deals with the changed target group analysis. This analysis consists of two parts: an analysis of the needs of the target group and an analysis of the situation. This thesis shows that different methods are required for both parts. For the analysis of target group needs a narrative approach seems promising. For the situation analysis, in which the relationships between parties involved (including the professional) are explored, a network analysis based on deconstruction is suitable.

    Chapter 6 shows two case-studies in more detail.

    Finally, in chapter 7 , some conclusions are drawn. The essence is that the method of dialogue through deconstruction can help to really bring forward conditions for participation.

    However, this is only possible if the professional:

    is willing to leave standard solutions;is able to systematically reflect upon his or her own assumptions;is able to give priority to the real opportunities for action of clients;is prepared to intervene through 'positive coercion', which means that every intervention is approved by clients.
    Original languageDutch
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • van Woerkum, C.M.J., Promotor
    • van der Laan, G., Promotor, External person
    Award date28 May 1999
    Place of PublicationS.l.
    Print ISBNs9789058080578
    Publication statusPublished - 1999


    • needs assessment
    • psychological needs
    • basic needs
    • social environment
    • human behaviour
    • developmental psychology

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