Theory and Practice

 

Maintaining a strong dynamic between theory and practice is central to the Centre’s aims.

Neglect practice and the risk is that theory becomes mere theorizing, empty and unconstrained. Neglect theory on the other hand, and the counterpart risk is that practice becomes ossified – stereotyped and inflexible in the face of challenge and change.

Collaborating Partners

The Centre’s Collaborating Partners, Individual and Organizational, represent between them a wide range of interests and expertise, theoretical and practical.

A particular aim of the Centre is to support work drawing equally on expertise by experience as on expertise by training (often of course combined in the same individuals or groups). The political scientist, Pamela Fisher‘s ESRC (Education and Science Research Council) project, Re-imagining Professionalism: towards Co-production, exemplifies this approach. HEXI (the Oxford Health Experiences Institute) provides a crucial resource in this respect.

You can search for potential collaborators in a given area using either the List of Key Words or by free searching via the Search facility (near the top of the right hand column of each page of the website).

Theory  

Philosophy, the medical humanities and empirical research, have all played and continue to play key roles in the theory supporting values-based practice (see Reading Guide).

Philosophy

The philosopher Anna Bergqvist has set up a group within the Centre, the Theory Network, focussing on philosophical theory. The very premise, no less, of values-based practice is an area of active philosophical enquiry: see for example Tim Thornton’s critique in Michael Loughlin’s Debates in Values-based Practice; and Anna’s own work on moral particularism.

Besides moral philosophy, many other philosophical areas are clearly relevant to values-based practice: philosophy of mind and phenomenology, for example, and aesthetics (see below, Combined Projects).

More surprising perhaps, but no less relevant (given the strong links between values-based practice and evidence-based practice), are the philosophically big issues raised by the nature of evidence. Big as these issues indeed are, in the philosophy of science and epistemology for example, they remain, as the philosopher Jeremy Howick has pointed out, largely disconnected from practice in contemporary evidence-based medicine.

Other Areas of the Humanities

Some of the many other areas of the humanities, besides philosophy, contributing to the on-going development of values-based practise are described below (see Combined Projects, below)

Empirical Research

Exemplary of the role of empirical research in the theory of values-based practice is Tony Colombo’s original work as a social scientist eliciting implicit values in models of disorder (See Reading Guide, section on Empirical Sources). A variety of other relevant empirical disciplines, such as anthropology, psychology and sociology, are represented among Collaborating Partners.

These and other areas of empirical enquiry are increasingly important to the on-going development of values-based practice especially through Combined Projects (see below)

Practice

Notwithstanding the importance of theory, values-based practice is nothing if it is ineffective in practice.

The importance of practice is reflected in the composition of our Collaborating Partners: numerically, practitioners outweigh theoreticians. A similar emphasis on practice is reflected in the make-up of our Advisory Board and our Management Group. Our current Key Areas of Collaboration (Education/Training, Regulation/Guidance and Integration/Teamwork) are likewise focused on practical pay-offs.

Among particular collaborations, our programme in Values-based Surgical Care has explicitly practical objectives. Examples of practically focussed collaborations in mental health include:

Although focused on practical outcomes these and other collaborations, maintaining the dynamic between theory and practice, are also research-oriented in their methods.

Combined Projects

The importance of the theory-practice dynamic is further reflected in the fact that the very first collaborative network in the Centre was set up with twin theoretical and practical objectives.

Helena Fox and Michel Musalek’s AiMH (Aesthetics in Mental Health) network draws on deep theoretical roots (in both phenomenological philosophy and the empirical social sciences) while at the same time focussing on key practical outcomes in areas such as education and training and the organization of services.

The importance of combined projects is also reflected in the relationship between values-based based practice and other disciplines in the Values Toolkit

The Values Toolkit

Values-based practice, as the authors of Essentials of Values-based Practice emphasised, is at its most effective when used in a well-joined up way with other tools in the Values Toolkit (see also, Reading Guide in More about VBP).

The Values Toolkit is reflected in the range of our Collaborating Partners representing theoretical and practical expertise in areas such as ethics and law, health economics, decision analysis, organizational analysis, management, policy, art and literature.

Still other disciplines are represented at one remove: theology for example through Andrew Papanikitas as a partner with Joshua Hordern, Oxford’s Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, in his Oxford Healthcare Values Partnership; and history though Bill Fulford as a member of the Advisory Board of Warwick History Department’s programme on the Cultural History of the NHS.

So if you are planning collaborative work on values and can’t find the partners you need through our Search facility please Contact Us and we will do our best to put you in touch with someone who can.