Shifting the culture and design of complaints systems: Participation, reflexivity and ethics
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This thesis comprises of a critical appraisal evaluating the collective contribution to knowledge of six of my peer reviewed publications in relation to how participatory, reflexive and ethical approaches to complaints can create a complaint systems culture that supports all actors affected by complaints and ensure greater accountability for learning. By adopting a constructionist approach to complaints, the appraisal draws attention to the negativity associated with complaints and the tension within complaints handling where parties to the disputes have different versions of truth and subjectivity and perspectivism play a part. Using a lens informed by critical theory and reflexivity, key learnings generated from these publications relate to the impact of power asymmetries on complaints including institutionalisation and gender. The critical appraisal goes on to develop a conceptual framework that situates complaints within conditions of power, subjectivity and underpinning values and highlights the importance of participation, reflexivity and ethics in giving agency to the parties affected by complaints. It argues that this can lead to greater accountability for learning, recognising that resolving complaints can involve different perspectives, multiple and complex issues and the answer is unlikely to be binary. Implications for practice include the fact that that the framework is a firm reminder of the role that consumer ADR, complaint systems and complaint handlers have in addressing power differentials. Further, that in order to facilitate participation, reflexivity and ethics complaint system designers may require collaborative approaches qualitatively different than some complaint systems in the UK currently accommodate.