Home Concepts Organizational Theory Professional Coaching, Plato’s Cave and the Sociology of Knowledge

Professional Coaching, Plato’s Cave and the Sociology of Knowledge

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What part of the shadow cast on the Vincentian walls is being blocked? Who is doing the blocking and why are they blocking part of the shadow? Are there political agendas, Society agendas, theological or sociological agenda? Does the Executive Director see the whole shadow or is he also viewing a partial image? What about the interpretation? Is the Executive Director of St. Vincent De Paul the interpreter? Or is someone else providing the most persuasive interpretation? Is the history of this long-standing service organization providing the interpretation? How hard will it be to overturn this long-standing and honourable narrative?

Some of the world operating inside the St. Vincent DePaul organization (and many other human service organizations around the world) may be changing. First, there are now multiple fires burning in the cave and projecting multiple shadows on the wall. The so-called grand narrative (of Western European and American origins) which defined much of our reality during the 19th and 20th Century is now collapsing. We now have multiple, conflicting narratives that make it difficult for all but the most xenophobic people in the world to see only one set of shadows. There is a second major change, with the advent of social media and reality television and with the purchase of goods and services directly from the source. We might now be moving back to a time when there are no “middle-men” or interpreters. The term disintermediation is being used to describe this potentially-seismic change in our societal acquisition and framing of knowledge.  Are the Vincentian middle-men losing control? Is this part of the challenge our Executive Director and his coach would now face?

Regardless of the shifts now occurring in our world of knowledge, we seem to remain confused about what is “real” and often don’t trust our direct experience. We move, with great reluctance (and considerable grieving), to a recognition that reality is being constructed for us and that we need to attend not only to the constructions, but also to the interests and motives of those who tend the fire and block images on the wall of the cave and those who offer us their interpretations. We must move, in other words, from an objectivist perspective (whether it be static or dynamic) to a constructivist perspective.

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