A New Journey for Citizens

Hi, my name is Denis Pageau and I am the Founding President of the SOCIETALogy Institute as well as the citizen behind the development of this new management science named SOCIETALogy. This science was developed specifically to facilitate the participation of citizens as they engage in making their societies better.

How Did The Societalogical Journey Begin?

My societalogical journey started in October 2005 as I was completing my masters degree. For my last session, I had four classes to attend including one on “Online communities of practices.”  We were halfway through the session, when I read this small paragraph:

“What if shared practice became the foundation of civic communities? And what if Citizens started to design their world on the model of fractal communities, linking local and global practice development? In other words, if you were the CKO (Chief Knowledge Officer) of the world, how would you design your knowledge initiative?”

Étienne Wenger: “Cultivating Communities or Practice.” P. 219

What if we could design our world through the use of communities of practice?

I thought that this was an exciting challenge and I was eager to realize it as soon as I read it. A few days later, I was already doing research and gathering ideas.

I was eager to accomplish Étienne Wenger’s  challenge because the concept of communities of practice crystallized an idea I had back in the early 90s;

using the internet, specifically discussion forums, to include citizens in the process of social planning.

Unfortunately, at that time the status of the dialogues on these forums was too chaotic to be useful. Could using the community of practice (CoP) approach solve the problem? I thought it could.

A Pet Project Was Born

Since social planning is the best way to design our world, I thought that building a Community of Practice for citizens (CoPc) to help citizens participate in the social planning process would be a great idea.  I thought that the process of structuring the subject so that it linked the local and global practices would be useful. For me this was only a pet project that I would do in my spare time.

Technologically, it took me 18 months to create a proof of concept. Unfortunately, although I was proud of what I had accomplished, I quickly understood that there was something missing. At this point, what I had developed was just a structured discussion forum that linked local and global practice development, but it was not a community of practice.

Understanding the Domain, the Practice and the Context

To have a community of practice, the knowledge managers, the facilitators and the participants must have a clear understanding of:

– the domain of knowledge and its sub-domains, for example the domain of health,
– the practice, for example, being a doctor or a nurse,
– and the context in which the practice is practiced, such as a hospital, a school, a retirement home, etc.

For example, it is easy to create a community of practice for nurses working in a hospital, because nurses have studied to become a nurse. They possess the knowledge associated with the domain of health as well as the knowledge associated with their practice of being a nurse. They also understand the context in which they practice their practice, in this case a hospital.

With this threefold understanding, nurses can have constructive, productive and professional dialogues while making sure that they are compatible with the context in which they practice their practice.

For example, nurses working in a school will not talk about what is going on in nursing homes. They will focus on the context in which they practice their practice which is school-related health issues.

Creating a Community of Practice for Citizens

To create a community of practice for citizens, I thus needed to know what was the

societal domain,
practice of being a citizen and the
context in which a citizen practices its practice, society.

Although we have an overall idea of what the societal domain is, I needed a clear definition for the two other concepts: citizen and society. Without them, the discussions that would take place would not coalesce into something useful.

An Astonishing Vacuum

Surprisingly, I was not able to find any acceptable definitions for these two concepts. In 12 specialized dictionaries including 10 sociological dictionaries, only one had an entry for citizens and it was not even a definition, but an entry that redirected the reader to the concept of citizenship.

How can we define citizenship if we do not know what a citizen is?

As for the concept of society, I found 10. Unfortunately they differ from one another and most importantly, they were too vague. They lacked the definitional quality from which we operationalize the definition. An operational definition is important since it helps you identify the positive and the negative or the “good” and the “bad.”

Hence I deduced that sociologists, for one reason or another,  weren’t able to define these important concepts. This impression was confirmed by two sociologists, Frisby and Sayer,  in their 1986 book “SOCIETY,” as they concluded on page 121 that:

“Society’ has proved too grand an abstraction by far for modern sociological tastes.”

Two questions arise from this vacuum

These unknown raised 2 important questions:

1 – How can we change society, if we do not know what it is?

2 – How can we help citizens participate in building better societies if we do not know what a citizen is and what is its role? 

In the settings of a CoP, how can we help citizens have a constructive, productive and professional dialogue about their practice if we do not know what their practice is and if we do not know the context in which they practice their citizenship?

The Start of the Societalogical Journey

The need to have a clear, clean and precise definition of these two concepts thus marks the start of my societalogical journey which began in the spring of  2007.

Since my journey started with the objective of creating a Community of practice for citizens, I was able to get a good grasp of what these two concepts were early on. This is natural since the goal of a CoP is to help us focus on the outcome of our actions and find ways to improve these outcomes. Thus communities of practices are a managerial approach to improve the outcome of our actions.

It is this management approach that led me to understand early on that societies were in fact organizations and that we were the co-owners of these societal organizations.

A New Management Science is Born

This being said, it took me four years to finally scientifically define these two concepts. Although it is easy to define something, it is more difficult to explain the process. Furthermore, as I searched to explain this process, I found many more concepts that lack a clear, clean and precise definition. The managerial approach of communities of practice has allowed me to refine these concepts and solidify my understanding of the societal domain.

As this process continued a new management science emerged that helped me finally understand societies and the role we play in them. I decide to call this science SOCIETALogy.

SOCIETALogy links together the words SOCIETAL and LOGY

SOCIETAL, from Old French societe, ‘company of people’; from Classical Latin societas, ‘association’; from Classical Latin socius, ‘associate, member’.

LOGY, Greek origin logo⁠-, ‘study’, and the French affix -⁠ie, ‘the fact of’.

Hence, SOCIETALogy studies how this “company of people” organizes to be able to live together. It thus studies societies as organizations.

With this science we are poised to make great leaps as the knowledge coming from this science is shared and used.

If you want to be the first to effectively manage your societies, contact us.

SOCIETALly yours
Denis Pageau

PS: If you want to contribute to the development of the Institute and its community of practice, please click the donate button below. Thank You.