Meta-communication as facilitation strategy in projects of "massive change"

Research summary

research on user-designer interaction has of yet poorly elucidated how meta-communication (communication about communication) is an important means in projects of “massive change”. Meta-communication or multi-actor ‘talk about how to talk’ is key in negotiating shared meanings so that the process for change initiated at a political or organizational high level can proceed also at the micro level despite experiences of tension and perceptions of contradictions and different time frames across this and other levels. This empirical focus is on a comparative analysis of projects in the Republic of South Africa, all of which had to do with on bringing about massive changes for the better in comparison to status quo. On the basis of an analysis of participant observation and analysis and interpretation of the written materials and notes made and collected, the goal is to describe and interpret how meta-communication helps to deal and to handle in constructive and generative ways tensions, contradictions and critical voices both outside and inside a project, which tensions otherwise might be destructive or degenerative. The goal includes to generalize beyond the particular materials how meta-communicative talk is a discursive resource for participants, as goes for facilitator participants in consulting or researcher roles, in particular.


The first phase of this reseearch was published in Social Policy: Ainamo, A. & I. Lindy (2013): "From missionary work to aid for trade: Institutional history of development cooperation", Social Policy.

Research info

Research title
Meta-communication as facilitation strategy in projects of "massive change"

Research timeline
1.5.2012 - 1.12.2016

architecture design facilitation innovation massive change meta-communication North-South relationships project management resistance science technology


Finland, South Africa

1) Aalto University; 2) Umeå University
1) Helsinki: 2) Umeå, 1) Finland, 2) Sweden

Head of research
Antti Ainamo

Research team
Antti Ainamo, Aalto University Ilari Lindy, University of Turku Associated: Marie-Laure Djelic, ESSEC, Paris, France

Aalto University, University of Turku, ESSEC

Contact information
Antti Ainamo

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