Development of a conceptual model 5

This conceptual model now includes basic ideas about what goes on in the individual, plus some of the most important concepts for PDP and e-portfolio use, as well as the generalised formalisable concepts processes surrounding individual action. It has come a long way since the last time I wrote about it.

The minimised version is here, first… (recommended to view the images below separately, perhaps with a right-click)


and that is complex enough, with so many relationship links looking like a bizarre and distorted spider’s web. Now for the full version, which is quite scarily complex now…


Perhaps that is the inevitable way things happen. One thinks some more. One talks to some more people. The model grows, develops, expands. The parts connected to “placement processes” were stimulated by Luk Vervenne’s contribution to the workshop in Berlin of my previous blog entry. But — and I find hard to escape from this — much of the development is based on internal logic, and just looking at it from different points of view.

It still makes sense to me, of course, because I’ve been with it through its growth and development. But is there any point in putting such a complex structure up on my blog? I do not know. It’s reached the stage where perhaps it needs turning into a paper-length exposition, particularly including all the explanatory notes that you can see if you use CmapTools, and breaking it down into more digestible, manageable parts. I’ve put the CXL file and a PDF version up on my own concept maps page. I can only hope that some people will find this interesting enough to look carefully at some of the detail, and comment… (please!) If you’re really interested, get in touch to talk things over with me. But the thinking will in any case surface in other places. And I’ll link from here later if I do a version with comments that is easier to get at.

More competency

The CEN WS-LT Competency SIG discussions of a conceptual model for skill/competence/competency are still at the very interesting early stage where very many questions are open. What kind of model are we trying to reach, and how can we get to where we could get? Anything seems possible, including experiments with procedures and conventions to help towards consensus.

Tuesday, December 1st, Berlin — a rainy day in the Ambassador Hotel, talking with an esteemed bunch of people about modelling skill/competence/competency. I won’t go on about participants and agenda — these can be seen at It was all interesting stuff, conducted in a positive atmosphere of enquiry. I’ll write here about just the issues that struck me, which were quite enough…

How many kinds of model are there?

At the meeting, there seemed to be quite some uncertainty about what kind of model we might be trying to agree on. I don’t know about other people, but I discern two kinds of model:

  • a conceptual model attempting to represent how people understand entities and relationships in the world;
  • an information model that could be used for expressing and exchanging information of common interest.

A binding isn’t really a separate model, but an expression of an information model.

My position, which I know is shared by several others, is that to be effective, information models should be based on common conceptual models. The point here is that without an agreed conceptual model, it is all too easy to imagine that you are building an information model where the terms mean the same thing, and play the same role. This could lead to conflict when agreeing the information model, as different people’s ideas would be based on different conceptual models, which would be hard to reconcile, or even worse in the long term, troublesome ambiguity could become embedded in an information model. Not all ambiguity is troublesome, if the things you are being ambiguous about really share the same information model, but no doubt you can imagine what I mean.

Claims and requirements for competence

A long-term aim of many people is to match what is learned in education with what is required for employment — Luk Vervenne was as usual championing the employer point of view. After reflection on what we have at the moment, and incorporating some of Luk’s ideas in the common information model I’ve been putting together, I’d say we have enough there to make a start, at least, in detailing what a competency claim might be, and how that might relate to a competency requirement.

In outline, a full claim for a single separate competence component could have

  • the definition of that component (or just a title or brief description if no proper definition available)
  • any assessment relevant to that component, with result
  • any qualification or other status relevant to that component (which may imply assessment result)
  • a narrative filling the gap between qualifications or assessment and what is claimed
  • any relevant testimonials
  • a record of relevant experience requiring, or likely to lead to, that competence component
  • links to / location of any other relevant “raw” (i.e. unassessed) evidence

I’ll detail later a possible model of competency requirements, and detail how the two could fit together. And I have now put up the latest version of the big conceptual model as well. There is clearly also a consequent need to be clearer about the structure of assessments, and we’ll be working on that, probably both within CETIS and within the CEN WS-LT.

What about competencies in themselves?

Reflected in the meeting, there still seems to be plenty of disagreement about the detail that is possible in an information model of a competency. Lester Gilbert, for example put forward a model in which he distinguished, for a fully specified educational objective:

  • situation;
  • constraints;
  • learned capability;
  • subject matter content;
  • standard of performance;
  • tools.

The question here, surely, is, to what extent are these facets of a definition (a) common and shared (b) amenable to representation in a usefully machine-processable way?

Personally, I wouldn’t like to rule anything in or out before investigating more fully. At least this could be a systematic investigation, looking at current practice across a range of application areas, carefully comparing what is used in the different areas. I have little difficulty believing that for most if not all learning outcomes or competency definitions, you could write a piece of text to fit into each of Lester’s headings. What I am much more doubtful about is whether there is any scheme that would get us beyond human-readable text into the situation where we could do any automatic matching on these values. Even if there are potential solutions for some, like medical subject headings for the subject matter content, we would need these labels to be pretty repeatable and consistent in order for them to be used automatically. And, what would we do with things like “situation”? The very best I could imagine for situation would be a classification of the different situations that are encountered in the course of a particular occupation. In UK NOSs, these might be written in to the documentation, either explicitly or implicitly. Similar considerations would apply to Lester’s “tools” facet. This might be tractable in the longer term, but would require at least the creation of many domain-specific ontologies, and the linking of any particular definition to one of these domain ontologies.

I can also envisage, as I have been advocating for some time, that some competency definitions would have ontology-like links to other related definitions. These could be ones of equivalence, or the SKOS terms “broadMatch” and “narrowMatch”, in cases where the authorities maintaining the definitions believed that in all contexts, the relationship was applicable.

What about frameworks of skill, competence, etc.?

It surprised me a little that we didn’t actually get round to talking about this in Berlin. But on reflection, with so many other fundamental questions still on the table, perhaps it was only to be expected. Interestingly, so far, I have found more progress here in my participation with MedBiquitous than with the CEN WS-LT.

I’ll write more about this later, but just to trail the key ideas in my version of the MedBiquitous approach:

  • a framework has some metadata (DC is a good basis), a set of competency objects, and a map;
  • the map is a set of propositions about the individual competency objects, relating them to each other and to objects that are not part of the framework;
  • frameworks themselves can be linked to as constituent parts of a framework, just as individual competency objects;
  • it is specified whether to accept the relationships defined within the competency objects, and in particular any breakdown into parts.

The point here is that just about any competency definition could, in principle, be analysed into a set of lower-level skills or competencies. This would be a framework. Equally, most frameworks could be used as objectives in themselves, so playing the same role as an individual competency object, being part of a competency framework. If a framework is included, and marked for including its constituent parts, then all those constituent parts would become part of the framework, by inclusion rather than by direct naming. In this way, it would be easy to extend someone else’s framework rather than duplicating it all.

Need for innovations in process and convention

Perhaps the most interesting conclusion from my point of view was about how we could conduct the processes better. There is a temptation to see the process as a competition between models — this would assume that each model is fixed in advance, and that people can be objective about their own, as well as other people’s models. Probably neither of these assumptions is justified. Most people seem to accept the question as “how can a common conceptual model be made from these models?”, even though there may be little wisdom around on how to do this. There is also the half-way approach of “what common information elements can be discerned between these models?” that might come into play if the greater aim of unifying the conceptual models was relinquished.

From my point of view, this brings me back to two points that I have come to recognise only in recent months.

This meeting, for me, displayed some of the same pattern as many previous ones. I was interested in the models being put forward Luk, and Lester, and others, but it was all too easy not to fully understand them, not quite to reach the stage of recognising the insights from them that could be applied to the model I’m continuing to put together. I put this down to the fact that the meeting environment is not conducive to a deep mutual understanding. One can ask a question here and there, but the questions of others may be related more to their own models, not to the relationship of the model under discussion with one’s own. So, one gets the feeling at the end of the meeting that one hasn’t fully grasped the direction one should take one’s own model. Little growth and development results.

So I proposed in the meeting what I have not actually proposed in a meeting before, that we schedule as many one-to-one conceptual encounters as are needed to facilitate that mutual growth of models at least towards the mutual understanding that could allow a meaningful composite to be assembled, if not a fully constituted isomorphism. I don’t know if people will be bold enough to do this, but I’ll keep on suggesting it in different forums until someone does, because I want to know if it is really an effective strategy.

The other point that struck me again was about the highest-level ontology used. One of the criteria, to my mind, of a conceptual model being truly shared, is that people answer questions about the concepts in recognisably similar ways, or largely the same on a multiple choice basis. Some of those questions could easily relate to the essential nature of the concept in question. In the terms of my own top ontology, is the concept about the material world? Or is it a repeatable pattern, belonging to the world of perception and thought? Is it, rather a concept related to communication — an expression of some kind? Whether this is exactly the most helpful set of distinctions is not the main point — it is that some set of distinctions like this will surely help people to clarify what kind of concepts they are discussing and representing in a conceptual model, and thus help people towards that mutual understanding.

A similar, but less clear point seems to apply to relationships between concepts. Allowed free rein in writing a conceptual model, people seem to write all kinds of things in for the relationships between concepts. Some of them seems to tie things in knots — “is a model of” for instance. So maybe, as well as having clear types for concepts, maybe we could agree a limited vocabulary for permitted relationships. That would certainly help the process of mapping two concept maps to each other. There are also two related conventions I have used in my most recent conceptual model.

  1. Whole-part relationships are represented by having contained concepts, of varying types, represented as inside a containing concept. This is easy to do in CmapTools. Typically the containing concept represents a sub-system of some kind. These correspond to the UML links terminated by diamond shapes (open and filled).
  2. Relationships typically called “kind of” or “is a” correspond to the UML sub-class relationship, given with an open triangle terminator. As these should always be between concepts of the same essential type, these can be picked out easily by being a uniform colour for the minimized and detailed representations of the whole.

So, all in all, a very stimulating meeting. Watch this space for further installments as trailed above.

A partially reconstructed competence maze

At the CETIS 2009 conference on Wednesday we built a consensus model on the floor — or at least, made a lot of progress towards one — connected to competence. Not many people turned up in the end — we had more booked onto the session than came — but that was more than compensated for by the quality of those that were there. As promised, we talked a great deal, but not as a whole group, and used the traffic cones, string, paper, pens and staplers. I transcribed the “maze” onto CmapTools, and have posted it on the session wiki page, so no need to reproduce it here. We did indeed make as much progress in three hours as some groups seem to need years for, though it was clearly not finished.

There was a lot of very interesting discussion going on. As I had suspected, this generalised well from my own experience, recounted in a previous post, that one-to-one discussion is much better for helping one’s own model to develop than is discussion in a larger group. So, in the meeting, I discouraged conversations that were either across the floor, or threatened to involve the whole group, even though, as it happened, we probably could have got a long way with these as well, because of the small numbers involved. But it was more important to trial the method properly, so we can be more confident that it will work when scaled up to, say 20 or so people working simultaneously.

Personally, I will take a close look at the output, put together with my recollections of all the great conversations I had over one or other traffic cone, and apply them to the extension of my developing conceptual model. If anyone else wants to take the CmapTools file, and elaborate it with their own ideas, I’d be very interested to see the result. During the conference session, I had very consciously held back from putting in ideas from my own conceptual models, at least in the first half, so that what developed was independent of that. I did participate in the second half, working on what had been built up, and trying to play a normal role of a collaborative participant. Now, I’d like to repeat the exercise again, with this, or in related domains.

I’d keep the traffic cones as they are. Mark Stubbs commented that they were a good size. They aren’t the biggest ones you can get, but they are proper normal full-sized traffic cones. The string, paper and fibre-tip colouring pens were workable — not very neat, but adequate, and perhaps a little untidiness helps to keep the informal atmosphere that in turn helps people relax and discuss deeply and openly.

But I’m driven to incorporate the ideas from the top-level ontology I’m developing, as mentioned in the most recent post here. Perhaps we could decide which top-level categories are most helpful for collaborative conceptual modelling, and pop different coloured sports cones on top of each traffic cone, depending on the type of thing it is representing. In the models in earlier posts, I have used a four-way distinction:

  • material things, including agents and non-agents together
  • real instantiated processes that are proceeding, or have completed
  • repeatable patterns of all kinds
  • expressions, including assertions of fact and predictions

It might be helpful to distinguish agents from non-agents, and assertions from predictions. It’s not clear what will be most helpful in the practical situation of this “floor-based conceptual modelling”. There need to be enough categories to help people recognise what they and others are meaning, but not so many that they are themselves difficult to understand, or confusing. I’ll be thinking about it, talking with people, and waiting for relevant comments from readers here…

What can be conceptually modelled?

Is there a useful, simple, easily understandable set of categories (or “top ontology” ) for helping people know what kind of thing they are thinking of when doing conceptual modelling or concept maps?

I started to think about this kind of thing when writing my book on e-portfolios, because I wanted a decent basis for discussion of what kind of information there is, or could be, in e-portfolios — and also, what kinds of things can e-portfolios refer to. I couldn’t find anything that was simple enough and easy enough to understand, or that I thought would really be helpful to my readers. So I wrote a short section on that in my book.

But then, doing all this recent conceptual modelling work, for European Learner Mobility and other things, the same issues came back. For example when we talk about a “qualification”, what on earth are we talking about? Is is a (physical) piece of paper? A definition of some sort? A status in society? A string of letters? Perhaps the concept of qualification is multi-faceted, and means all these things and more. But that isn’t much use for a conceptual model, where concepts need to be related to other concepts. These different meanings of “qualification” participate in radically different relationships with other concepts.

So, I’ve taken the ideas started off in my book, and put them in a separate web page, which can be developed as people share their feedback with me. It is intended to help people reflect on and understand what kind of concept or thing they mean, when doing conceptual modelling, so aiding communication in and about concept maps.

Here, then, is a link to the page with my “top ontology” — open to discussion and development. Please comment (through whatever medium), and help me make it into a useful resource.

Development of a conceptual model 4

This version of the conceptual model (of learning opportunity provision + assessment + award of credit or qualification) uses the CmapTools facility for grouping nodes; and it further extends the use of my own “top ontology” (introduced in my book).

There are now two diagrams: a contracted and an expanded version. When you use CmapTools, you can click on the << or >> symbols, and the attached box will expand to reveal the detail, or contract to hide it. This grouping was suggested by several people in discussion, particularly Christian Stracke. Let’s look at the two diagrams first, then go on to draw out the other points.


You can’t fail to notice that this is remarkably simpler than the previous version. What is important is to note the terms chosen for the groupings. It is vital to the communicative effectiveness of the pair of diagrams that the term for the grouping represents the things contained by the grouping, and in the top case — “learning opportunity provision” — it was Cleo Sgouropoulou who helped find that term. Most of the links seem to work OK with these groupings, though some are inevitably less than fully clear. So, on to the full, expanded diagram…


I was favourably impressed with the way in which CmapTools allows grouping to be done, and how the tools work.

Mainly the same things are there as in the previous version. The only change is that, instead of having one blob for qualification, and one for credit value, both have been split into two. This followed on from being uncomfortable with the previous position of “qualification”, where it appeared that the same thing was wanted or led to, and awarded. It is, I suggest, much clearer to distinguish the repeatable pattern — that is, the form of the qualification, represented by its title and generic properties — and the particular qualification awarded to a particular learner on a particular date. I originally came to this clear distinction, between patterns and expressions, in my book, when trying to build a firmer basis for the typology of information represented in e-portfolio systems. But in any case, I am now working on a separate web page to try to explain it more clearly. When done, I’ll post that here on my blog.

A pattern, like a concept, can apply to many different things, at least in principle. Most of the documentation surrounding courses, assessment, and the definitions about qualifications and credit, are essentially repeatable patterns. But in contrast, an assessment result, like a qualification or credit awarded, is in effect an expression, relating one of those patterns to a particular individual learner at a particular time. They are quite different kinds of thing, and much confusion may be caused by failing to distinguish which one is talking about, particularly when discussing things like qualifications.

These distinctions between types of thing at the most generic level is what I am trying to represent with the colour and shape scheme in these diagrams. You could call it my “top ontology” if you like, and I hope it is useful.

CmapTools is available free. It has been a great tool for me, as I don’t often get round to diagrams, but CmapTools makes it easy to draw the kinds of models I want to draw. If you have it, you might like to try finding and downloading the actual maps, which you can then play with. Of course, there is only one, not two; but I have put it in both forms on the ICOPER Cmap server, and also directly in CXL form on my own site. If you do, you will see all the explanatory comments I have made on the nodes. Please feel free to send me back any elaborations you create.

Development of a conceptual model 3

I spent 3 days in Lyon this week, in meetings with European project colleagues and learning technology standardization people. This model had a good airing, and there was lots of discussion and feedback. So it has developed quite a lot over the three days from the previous version.

So, let’s start at the top left. The French contingent wanted to add some kind of definition of structure to the MLO (Metadata for Learning Opportunities) draft CWA (CEN Workshop Agreement) and it seemed like a good idea to put this in somewhere. I’ve added it as “combination rule set”. As yet we haven’t agreed its inclusion, let alone its structure, but if it is represented as a literal text field just detailing what combinations of learning opportunities are allowed by a particular provider, that seems harmless enough. A formal structure can await future discussion.

Still referring to MLO, the previous “assessment strategy” really only related to MLO and nothing else. As it was unclear from the diagram what it was, I’ve taken it out. There is usually some designed relationship between a course and a related assessment, but though perhaps ideally the relationship should be through intended learning outcomes (as shown), it may not be so — in fact it might involve those combination rules — so I’ve put in a dotted relationship “linked to”. The dotted relationships are meant to indicate some caution: in this case its nature is unclear; while the “results in” relationship is really through a chain of other ones. I’ve also made dotted the relationship between a learning opportunity specification and a qualification. Yes, perhaps the learning opportunity is intended to lead to the award of a qualification, but that is principally the intention of the learning opportunity provider, and may vary with other points of view.

Talking about the learning opportunity provider, discussion at the meetings, particularly with Mark Stubbs, suggested that the important relationships between a provider and an learning opportunity specification are those of validation and advertising. And the simple terms “runs” and “run by” seem to express reasonably well how a provider relates to an instance. I am suggesting that these terms might replace the confusingly ambiguous “offer” terminology in MLO.

Over on the right of the diagram, I’ve tidied up the arrows a bit. The Educational Credit Information Model CWA (now approved) has value, level and scheme on a par, so I though it would be best to reflect that in the diagram with just one blob. Credit transfer and accumulation schemes may or may not be tied to wider qualifications frameworks with levels. I’ve left that open, but represented levels in frameworks separately from credit.

I’ve also added a few more common-sense relationships with the learner, who is and should be central to this whole diagram. Learners aspire to vague things like intended learning outcomes as well as specific results and qualifications. They get qualifications. And how do learners relate to learning opportunity specifications? One would hope that they would be useful for searching, for investigation, as part of the process of a learner deciding to enrol on a course.

I’ve added a key in the top right. It’s not quite adequate, I think, but I’m increasingly convinced that this kind of distinction is very helpful and important for discussing and agreeing conceptual models. I’m hoping to revisit the distinctions I made in my book, and to refine the key so that it is even clearer what kind of concept each one is.

Development of a conceptual model 2

As promised, the model is gently evolving from the initial one posted.


Starting from the left, I’ve added a “creates” relationship between the assessing body and the assessment specification, to mirror the one for learning. Then, I’ve reversed the arrows and amended the relationship captions accordingly, for some of the middle part of the diagram. This is to make it easier to read off scenarios from the diagram. Of course, each arrow could be drawn in either direction in principle, just by substituting an inverse relationship, but often one direction makes more sense than the other. I’ve also amended some other captions for clarity.

An obvious scenario to read off would be this: “The learner enrols on a course, which involves doing some activities (like listening, writing, practical work, tests, etc.) These activities result in records (e.g. submitted coursework) which is assessed in a process specified by the assessing body, designed to evaluate the intended learning outcomes that are the objectives of the course. As a result of this summative assessment, the awarding body awards the learner a qualification.” I hope that one sounds plausible.

The right hand side of the diagram hadn’t had much attention recently. To simplify things a little, I decided that level and framework are so tightly joined that there is no need to separate them in this model. Then, mirroring the idea that a learner can aspire to an assessment outcome, it’s natural also to say that a learner may want a qualification. And what happens to credits after they have been awarded? They are normally counted towards a qualification — but this has to be processed, it is not automatic, so I’ve included that in the awarding process.

I’m still reasonably happy with the colour and shape scheme, in which yellow ovals are processes or activities (you can ask, “when did this happen?”), green things are parts of the real world, things that have concrete existence; and blue things are information.

Development of a conceptual model

Reflecting on the challenging field of conceptual models, I thought of the idea of exposing my evolving conceptual model that extends across the areas of learner mobility, learning, evaluation/assessment, credit, qualifications and awards, and intended learning outcomes — which could easily be detailed to cover knowledge, skill and competence.


This is more or less the whole thing as it is at present. It will evolve, and I would like that to illustrate how a model can evolve as a result of taking into account other ideas. It also wants a great deal of explanation. I invite questions as comments (or directly) so that I can judge what explanation is helpful. I also warmly welcome views that might be contrasting, to help my conceptual model to grow and develop.

It originates in work with the European Learner Mobility team specifying a model for European Learner Mobility documents — that currently include the Diploma Supplement (DS) and Certificate Supplement. This in turn is based on the European draft standard Metadata for Learning Opportunities (MLO), which is quite similar to the UK’s (and CETIS’s) XCRI. (Note: some terminology has been modified from MLO.) Alongside the DS, the model is intended to cover the UK’s HEAR — Higher Education Achievement Report. And the main advance from previous models of these things, including transcripts of course results, is that it aims to cover intended learning outcomes in a coherent way.

This work is evolving already with valued input from colleagues I talk to in

but I wanted to publish it here so that anyone can contribute, and anyone in any of these groups can refer to it and pass it round — even if as a “straw man”.

It would have been better to start from the beginning, so that I could explain the origin of each part. However that is not feasible, so I will have to be content with starting from where I am, and hoping that the reasoning supporting each feature will become clear in time, as there is an interest. Of course, at any time, the reasoning may not adequately support the feature, and on realising that I will want to change the model.

Please comment if there are discrepancies between this model and your model of the same things, and we can explore the language expressing the divergence of opinion, and the possibility for unification.

Obviously this relates to the SC36 model I discussed yesterday.

See also the next version.

Consensus process and conceptual models

I was in Umeå last week — at the NORDLET conference — but also there were lots of ISO SC36 people coming for their meeting. Now SC36 is trying to put forward a “PDTR” — draft technical report — “ITLET – Conceptual reference model for competencies and related objects” which I have been interested in for a while, as it would be nice to use this opportunity to broaden consensus about competence and related terms. There is a diagram representing a current proposal, and this is part of a set of documents tracing the development of this work, which up to now I was not aware of.

You know the basic idea about the standardization process — there is meant to be established practice in the area which would benefit from standardization. But, as I am just discovering, there is another kind of ISO document, the Technical Report. This one is of “type 3, when the joint technical committee has collected data of a different kind from that which is normally published as an International Standard (“state of the art”, for example).” And so we could at least think over, what is the appropriate time to try to agree a conceptual model? What is the appropriate process?

My experience and intuition both tell me that it takes a lot of work to agree on a shared conceptual model. People almost always build up their own private conceptual models of any area they are involved with. Concepts are used in discussion among groups, and these concepts become important to the group members, as they are part of their language, and their means of communication. Put two groups together, attempting to merge their conceptual models, and you are likely to find people defending their corners. That’s not consensus process, and it could easily result in a botch of a conceptual model that satisfies no one at all.

But put two individuals together, free from the constraints of being answerable to a group, and a wholly different process can take place. Instead of communication being a prompt to defend known terms, it is naturally a motive to explore the other person’s terms and meanings. And the prize at the end of a deep exploratory dialogue of this kind could be a shared conceptual model — not necessarily where the facts in the model are agreed, but at least where the language is agreed in which it is possible to disagree comprehensibly. And it is just during these dialogues — again, in my experience — that each person’s conceptual model is able to grow.

It seems like a good idea, therefore, in any case of trying to agree a conceptual model, to base the consensus process around dialogues between pairs of people. The time needed can seem long. My (good) experience of talking with Simone Laughton — an SC36 member from Canada — suggests that it takes at least several hours to get a good enough understanding of someone else’s conceptual model, at least of the type that SC36 are trying to agree on, if one wants to create a shared conceptual model.

So, contrast two alternatives. Firstly, the existing committee-based processes, which seem to run up again and again into the difficulties of disagreement, perhaps because of the mechanisms suggested above. Secondly, deep pairwise dialogue between all the participants who feel they have a position on a conceptual model. The second option is front-loaded — that is, it seems to need more work up front — but my guess is that once that work had been done — once people have had the experience of the development of their own model through dialogue — the committee process would probably be very quick and painless. And, maybe, the process might even take less time overall, as well as being more likely to result in a genuinely shared model.

Worth a try?

Worth a try also, perhaps, in areas that might be of similar complexity, such as the attempt to agree a management or governance structure between people in the same organisation, or with a common interest?