Academic journal article Public Administration Review

The Reflective Practitioner

Academic journal article Public Administration Review

The Reflective Practitioner

Article excerpt

In this issue's "Reflective Practitioner," Douglas J. Watson, city manager of Auburn, Alabama, tells the story of Auburn's collaboration with the Bulgarian city of Blagoevgrad. Sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the International City Management Association, Auburn's work with Blagoevgrad was part of a larger project pairing U.S. municipalities with those in developing and transitional countries. The intent was to make practical knowledge from well-run U.S. cities available to help solve the problems faced by local governments elsewhere.

For reflective practitioners, the story illustrates the usefulness of "knowing in action," that is, knowledge acquired in practice, and particularly its applicability across situations. Watson's account shows how practical knowledge generated in one context can be used to make things better even in a dramatically different situation. In this respect, it demonstrates how the process of comparison between situations, which brings to light similarities and differences, enriches the understanding of actors in both situations about both situations---not just the one that is supposedly the destination of the technology transfer. As Watson says, "The ability to think through problems similar to the ones we face at home with people with a different set of life experiences is challenging and rewarding ... they face the same pressures and problems that we do." In other words, practitioners engaged in cross-cultural collaboration gain new insights into their own work in the very process of transferring their knowledge to others. …

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