Conference papers


Transitioning to World Care: Functional Collaboration

XX ISA World Congress of Sociology, Melbourne, Australia, 25 June-1July 2023.

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Today humanity is confronted with an unparalleled number of major world crises – ecological, economic, political, cultural and religious – and the entrenchment and solidification of world-views.

  The challenge for us, as sociologists, is how do we find a way forward when the academy is locked within its disciplinary silos, when the academy lacks a coherent and comprehensive methodological framework for analysis, when theory and practice are alienated from one another, when policymakers ignore research or disregard it as irrelevant. How do we devise policies, strategies and practical action when disciplines only offer partial and unrelated insights?

  Disciplinary specialisation has been found wanting. It is no longer fit for purpose. We desperately need a new way of dividing up the work, a new way of specializing, a new way of dealing with complex, multi-dimensional issues, one which will more effectively promote collaboration among researchers.

  This paper proposes a new way of understanding and doing science, a cyclic process aligned with progress where researchers specialise in methods not disciplines.

  Drawing on the work of Bernard Lonergan (1972), Functional Collaboration is grounded in the process of going from where we are now to implementing something new in which we can distinguish eight different types of questions in two phases:

  • learning from the past – empirical questions, definitional questions, historical questions, critical/evaluative questions;
  • looking to the future – transformative/visionary questions, policy questions, strategic questions and practical questions.

  Answering each type of question requires a different method. Researchers specialise around these eight methods forming functional specialties – Research, Interpretation, History, Dialectic, Foundations, Policies, Systematics and Communication. Within this unifying framework for collaborative creativity, researchers pass their results from one specialty to the next and contribute to the final outcome. (See: and

Functional collaboration as futurology

2023 Australian Lonergan Workshop, Melbourne,
Friday 28 April to Sunday 30 April 2023


The future has always had a fascination to us humans; we are oriented to the future, we hope for a better future; we are inspired by utopias and fear dystopias; we do things now in anticipation that they will be of benefit in the future; we like to know what is going to happen so we can adjust or take action to mitigate or alter it or avoid it. Each religious tradition has its own eschatology.

  The future of humanity, however, looks grim as we are confronted with an unparalleled number of major world crises – ecological, economic, political, cultural and religious.

  Futurologists such as Richard Slaughter, Sohail Inayatullah and Wendell Bell are seeking to develop a method for future studies which is holistic, multidisciplinary, practical and creative. But how successful are they?

  In Method in Theology: An Organon for our Time, Fred Crowe describes Lonergan as a theologian who sought to build the future and, the functional specialties as relevant to any human studies that investigates a cultural past to guide its future. But can the functional specialties deal with the complex of issues that challenge the future of humanity and that are raised by futurologists? How is functional collaboration futurology? Does it provide a new global hope? This paper seeks to address these questions.


Livability, equity and well-being as values: what role does housing play?

Asia-Pacific Network for Housing Research Conference (APNHR2022), Online+Shanghai, China, 2 -3 July 2022

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Values have had an ambivalent and turbulent history within the social sciences. Social researchers have preferred to understand society and housing as the outcome of the interests, motivations and attitudes of social agents. Notwithstanding, in recent years, some housing researchers have pointed to the importance of values in the design of housing, consumer preferences, debates around the right to housing and analysis of housing issues, policies and outcomes. In the context of a renewed interest in a values-based approach to housing research, this paper will put forward a new definition of values, distinguish between different types of values, argue that the realm of values is fundamentally social and that housing systems are constituted values. The paper will conclude by returning to the theme of APNHR2022, Housing and the City: Livability, Equity and Well-being, and outline the characteristics of housing that play a role in bringing about the values of livability, equity and well-being.