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We’ve called it “The RPM Book.”
Much as we have wanted to share the Reasonable Person Model (RPM) with the world for some time, we were also reluctant to do it prematurely. By now such thoughts have given way to a sense of urgency. RPM offers a way of thinking about big and small issues, an approach to trying out solutions, and a framework that can foster reasonableness. We have put this book together with the hope that the power of this simple framework will inspire others to create supportive environments for bringing out our best. Who would doubt the urgency of that!
The book’s preamble ends with “And so, RPM continues to grow.” These chapters are testimony to that growth. In writing our chapters, each of us discovered new ways that RPM helped us see and understand. In reading one another’s chapters and from our workshop in Ann Arbor, we discovered that seemingly disparate contexts have many things in common when viewed from an RPM perspective. Despite our different backgrounds, expertise, and professional roles, we found that RPM gives us a common framework that applies to our lives, our work, and many issues facing the world.
The initial drafts of the chapters served as the basis of a graduate seminar in the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan in the winter of 2013. Led by Rachel Kaplan and Avik Basu, the seminar was an extraordinary experience for the participating graduate students and each of the authors. A separate class session of the seminar was devoted to each of the chapters, with the chapter author present (in most instances virtually) to discuss the chapter that the students had read closely beforehand. The students not only discussed the chapter with the author but also provided feedback. The authors were all deeply appreciative of the intense interest in their work and the constructive suggestions; they marveled at how unusual the format was for engaging students. One of the authors commented on how the seminar itself was an excellent application of RPM.
For subsequent revisions of the chapters we asked one of the seminar students, Matt Ferris-Smith, to provide further commentaries, specifically suggesting connections among chapters in the collection. Matt’s thoughtful and perceptive analyses gave the authors yet another source of feedback in addition to the suggestions from other authors and the extensive comments by the coeditors. The final versions of the chapters incorporate insights from the June 2013 workshop and the many comments and suggestions. Thus, while the book is an edited collection with a multitude of useful applications and perspectives, it also provides an integrated whole with a rich network of interconnections.
As coeditors, our goal throughout has been a book that is far more than the sum of the chapters. The chapter authors share not only a common framework for their contributions but also a sense of ownership for the project. They have provided us with feedback about the book’s organization, title, and mission. We have, however, taken the responsibility for its coherence and for providing readers with orientations and insights about crosscutting themes as well as highlighting ways to create supportive environments. All of us who have been involved with this project have a keen interest in seeing RPM widely disseminated so that it can help bring out the best in many others, individually and collectively.
RPM speaks to a great diversity of audiences, including practitioners, researchers, teachers, and students. The emphasis throughout the book is on putting the framework to use. It applies to environmental planning as much as to health planning, to classroom teaching as much as to other contexts involving sharing information, communication, and engaging others in seeking answers. Across a broad spectrum of fields, contexts, and job titles, practitioners, leaders, and citizens must care about bringing out the best in people. We have found that people welcome insights that help them reflect on why their current practices fall short and are excited by a simple, portable model that is applicable to their situation.
Speaking to such diverse audiences means straddling many distinctions: style of writing, how much and what kind of literature to cite, format and design of the book, etc. While the chapters vary in the academic and professional perspectives they draw on, they are written to be understandable and useful to a broad audience of individuals who are eager for usable and thought-provoking perspectives on effective change and affecting change.
Putting together a book with so many authors can be burdensome and problematic. Perhaps it is the team’s collective understanding of RPM that made our task as editors so straightforward and positive! We deeply appreciate the authors’ wonderful spirit and enthusiasm, prompt and thoughtful responses to suggestions, and willingness to embrace ways to make their chapters an integral part of the RPM book.