Glossary: E

Emergent theory building

“Emergent theory building is a process whereby theoretical discoveries are made based primarily on the action that a studied community takes as part of its own study. The community actively helps researchers achieve greater understanding at the same time that it comes to a better understanding of itself. It can suggest a problem, reorient research and intervention to a more productive path, and critique or validate research results. Emergent theory building is the product of interaction and of the coconstructions created by individuals from the community and the research team. It is a means to coconstruct theory for new concepts… because it draws on material constructed in a group setting and returns it to the group for dissection and improvement, while also drawing on existing theories.”(Lafortune, 2004d, pp. 297-298 [translation].)

During the accompaniment process, people reflect on change, gain new awareness, establish links, and make observations. Some of their new findings may lead to theorizing, because they bear witness to the experience underway. But this information must first be collected as evidence and kept for subsequent examination and comparison. It must be analyzed, interpreted, and validated before any theoretical statements (definition of concepts associated with change or the accompaniment of change) can be formulated or any experiential models (professional accompaniment model for change) or models of practice can be built (Lafortune 2008a).


Guillemette (2006) defines engagement as a willing, voluntary, conscious, and deliberate personal investment, or as a profound attachment. Engagement demonstrates the importance that an individual accords to a goal or person with whom he or she has ties, and guarantees the completion of tasks the individual has undertaken. Kiesler (1971) also associates engagement with tasks, likening it to “the tie that binds an individual to the acts that he consciously, freely, and willingly carries out. According to the author, acts alone commit individuals […]” (Kiesler, 1971, cited in Pirot and De Ketele, 2000, pp. 368–369 [translation]).

In accompanying change, engagement also refers to action, because initiating action is vital to implementing change. However, engagement may also involve preparing for action; an individual can be engaged without actually taking action. In an accompaniment process, not everyone takes action at the same time. An individual may claim to be committed to a change, but the level of commitment will determine whether action ensues or not. For some people, action may take longer. Conversely, other actions can be carried out in the absence of true commitment. Nonetheless, the accompaniment model helps the accompanied individuals realize the importance of action in moving the change process forward.

In other words, engagement manifests itself in observable professional acts. Individuals show their commitment through their actions, even in situations that are not always conducive or favorable to implementing change.

“Being engaged” can also mean being subject to constraint; this is known as obligation or locked-in engagement (Jaros et al., 1993; Johnson, 1995). This type of engagement may exist simply because the envisaged change is considered impossible. In such cases, individuals remain engaged because they feel that they have no other choice (Adams, 1999; Becker, 1964; Gérard, 1965; Levinger, 1999). Self-engagement, on the other hand, assumes both freedom and constraint (Strauss, 1992), and the belief that the situation does not depend solely on structural constraints, but on oneself as an individual and on one's choices and actions (Nadot, 1998). An individual may “be engaged” without having actively made a commitment, or without having done so consciously or voluntarily (Becker, 1964; Lawler and Yoon, 1993; Leik et al., 1999; Strauss, 1992). In other words, the state of being engaged (or the engagement state) may be the result of an obligation engagement (Guillemette (2006, pp. 18–21).

Engagement can also be qualified as a dynamic and open-ended process that takes different dimensions of engagement (affective, cognitive, metacognitive, and social) into account. These dimensions are part of a socioconstructivist perspective that tends to portray engagement as something that develops and transforms itself depending on the interactions that people have in their workplace. However, there is a distinction to be made between the concept of engagement (willing, voluntary, conscious, and deliberate personal investment or profound attachment) and the concept of engagement in a context of significant and prescribed change (questioning, reflecting on practices, taking initiative and action). Consequently, engagement takes on different meanings depending on the context.

Only individuals have the power to define and commit to their engagement, which is why we often talk about self-engagement. “[T]he self is both subject and object of the action; it is a matter of engaging oneself by oneself. Actions with this characteristic—i.e., whose subject and object are the same—can be termed autonomous” (Guillemette, 2006, p17 [translation]). Manifestations of engagement can be observed in an individual's attitudes and actions. From a socioconstructivist accompaniment perspective, intrinsic commitment is a way to express one's freedom and implies voluntary choice. By observing people's attitudes and actions, it is possible to determine, interpret, and qualify the commitment they have made. In the case of an accompaniment model for change, self-engaging means adopting a professional development posture. The models seek to foster a level of engagement among the persons being accompanied so that they will act in a way that facilitates a change within their organization. Though their actions, they alone can define, bear witness to, and be accountable for their engagement, consciously or not. One characteristic of a committed individual may be to take initiative and action above and beyond what is required. Individuals who act this way show that they like and believe in what they do, and enjoy doing it. They take an interest in their profession and the professional acts they perform allow them to achieve personal and professional fulfillment. They are proactive, perseverant, and have a sense of responsibility. They seek to understand or pursue actions undertaken in a particular situation, and contribute to them in a manner consistent with their own values and beliefs.

Engagement can also refer to interest in individual or group actions to undertake. Depending on the level of interest in the change being implemented, commitment can range from “rather low” to “very high.” If commitment is high, barriers to change rapidly disappear and solutions are readily identified. If it is low, barriers easily lead to withdrawal, discouragement, and weaker commitment to finding a solution (Lafortune, Mongeau, Daniel and Pallascio, 2000). There are different types of engagement, including professional engagement; relational engagement; voluntary, cognitive, and reflective engagement; and more (for further explanation, see Lafortune, 2008).

Enrichment of the knowledge culture

Enrichment of the knowledge culture is the introduction or development of new knowledge, practices, concepts, topics, competencies, and strategies in a specific field and workplace that helps provide the accompaniment and training necessary to understand the foundations of a change. It encourages an informed reading of change by providing a credibly argued vision for both those interested in understanding the change and those who resist it. It is not a matter of “converting” or “indoctrinating” the persons being accompanied. Instead, the goal is to provide tools that encourage them to think about the goals, scope, and underlying foundations of the change in order to nourish their reflections and, ideally, encourage them to understand and gradually accept the change.

Implementation of a major prescribed change enriches the knowledge culture, thereby helping participants understand the foundations of the change and acquire the necessary autonomy to adapt their professional practices or model of practice. In a changing world, enhancing the professional knowledge culture is associated with professional development and the successive regulation of professional practices. To be or become an accompaniment provider, it is vital to enrich one's knowledge culture: it helps accompanied persons see the relationships between theory and practice.

Developing a knowledge culture in the field affected by the change helps ensure that the accompaniment approach is consistent, relevant, and theoretically grounded. However, there are questions as to the scope and depth of this culture. According to Lafortune and Martin (2004), it is not just a body of knowledge. It is a set of attitudes, knowledge, strategies, abilities, competencies, and experiences that allowed those being accompanied to develop their critical judgment, creativity, critical distance, and self-assurance. It is an active culture in the sense that accompaniment providers draw upon their own resources and examples in the accompaniment process. This assumes a link between the proposed actions and the theoretical rationale put forward (adapted from Lafortune and Martin, 2004) (for further explanation, see Lafortune, 2008a,b).

Evaluation in accompanying change

Evaluation is a complex process that consists of examining and critically reflecting on the renewal of professional practices put in motion by a change in an organization, and the extent to which that change is successfully implemented. It involves judging one's progress in the change process, as well as the progress of accompanied staff. Evaluation performs a helping and supporting function in the process of accompanying change. It is used with an eye to fostering progress and professional development, taking into account the prescriptive aspects and guidelines for the change being implemented.

Evaluation is carried out using data collected from accompanied staff in accordance with explicit criteria. Once analyzed and interpreted, the data is discussed with the staff, enabling them to measure and validate the progress of the change or the development of their accompaniment skills. From this perspective, evaluation practices help guide the choice of future actions and determine which measures are necessary for further progress in the change process. In the socioconstructivist approach to accompanying change, evaluation is reflective and interactive, i.e., it makes ample room for the reflections, contributions, and involvement of staff by taking their ideas, values, viewpoints, and professional expertise into account. Evaluation also helps in assessing, analyzing, and understanding the extent to which change has been implemented by determining what has actually been done, the time required to do it, and the level of staff autonomy in the change process (for further explanation, see Lafortune, 2008a).

Evidence keeping

Evidence keeping is a useful means of systematically collecting information to keep track of the path or progress of those on the inside of the change accompaniment process. It uses tools like questionnaires, information sheets, moments of reflection, syntheses, coconstruction, recordings, accompaniment journals, etc. Evidence keeping encourages reflection as well as the analysis of existing professional practices and practices associated with change. Evidence is also useful for reviewing learning outcomes from the process and for evaluation purposes. When developing action plans, the accompaniment provider determines which types of evidence should be preserved and how the information should be collected and used. Evidence provides benchmarks for the accompaniment process and can be revisited at different times along the way. It is used as a starting point, and for predicting, revisiting, reviewing, monitoring, and evaluating; it helps us understand the evolution of the process, identify its strengths and weaknesses, measure progress, retrace steps taken, summarize the process, and establish ties between meetings. It facilitates regulation and adjustment and helps improve the accompaniment process (for further explanation, see Lafortune, 2008b).


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