School of Health in Social Science

Stuart Pritchard

What ‘creative-relational inquiry' means to me.

For me creative relational inquiry means engaging with broader and deeper ways of knowing, in relationship with both myself and others. To be human is to be in relationship, with ourselves, with each other, and with the world around us. Our knowledge is a function of our relationships, our ontologies are a function of our relationships, as are our emotions and our interpretations of them. Yet there is no light without casting a shadow, so while beauty, truth, love, compassion and nurturing are relational aspects of humanity, so are war, racism, environmental degradation, hate, and exclusion.

Creative relational inquiry however offers the prospect of emancipation, in the sense that relationships are created by our moment to moment exchanges, they are dynamic, contextual, and open to influence and change. They therefore offer us hope, the hope that through changing our relationships, we may yet help make the changes our world so desperately needs as it faces the profound challenges of population growth, inequality, and climate change.

Changing the way we relate, can literally change the world. Some might even argue that at heart, it is the only way to change the world.

Starting out in electrical engineering, I was socialised to the absolute, not the relational, by a techo-rationalist ontology that limited my world to the tangible. Yet later I learned, on my journey to my current PhD studies at Ashridge Business School, that there is a self which interacts not only with the world, but with other selves – that we exist in relationship. I learned too that I have so many more ways of knowing than just experiment, measurement, and mathematics – wonderful as those gifts are, they are not by themselves sufficient to embrace my fullest sense of humanity.

For me, imagination is a way of knowing. I don’t need to eat potato and liver ice cream to know I don’t like it. I don’t need to write an equation for love, to know how deep and profound it is to experience. I have access to a whole world of inner experience, that’s finds its fullest expression through creativity and emotion. For me, as musician, song writing is one way I access that creativity with others. I write fiction too, which for me at least, can be a form of knowing as profound as any ‘fact’.

At heart, creative relational inquiry is for me a wonderful addition to human experience which by adding to technical knowing and logical argument, helps to rebalance me. More than that, it helps to create “me”, in terms of my sense of identity. When I engage with it, I feel myself move form a day-job, rule-following, economic unit, towards fuller and more profound experience of what it means to be human.


Stuart Pritchard, studying a part-time Action Research PhD at Ashridge Business School, Hertfordshire