Action, Research, and Participation

Despite the significant differences among AR practitioners and their life situa­tions, we believe that several important commitments link most of us. AR is composed of a balance of three elements. If any one of the three is absent, then the process is not AR. This is not to say that al non-AR processes are meaningless but to distinguish AR from other kinds of research and applica­tion activities.

  1. Action. AR is participatory because AR aims to alter the initial situation of the group, organization, or community in the direction of a more self-managing, liberated, and sustainable state. What is defined as a liberated state varies from one practitioner to another. Some use AR to create a kind of liberation through greater self-realization. Others emphasize more political meanings of lib­eration, and these vvary among themselves regarding how strong a political liberation agenda they advocate. Still others believe that AR occurs in any kind of research activity in which there is participation by some members of the organization being studied. Although a few practitioners try to link AR and revolutionary praxis, by and large, AR practitioners are democratic reformers rather than revolutionaries.
  2. Research. We believe in research, in the power and value of knowledge, theories, models, methods, and analysis. We believe that AR is one of the most powerful ways to generate new research knowledge.
  3. Participation. We believe in participation, placing a strong value on democracy and control over one’s own life situations. These values permeate our argu­ments and create a strong general commitment to democratizing the knowl­edge generation process. AR involves trained social researchers who serve as facilitators and teachers of members of local communities or organizations. Because these people together establish the AR agenda, generate the knowledge ne^ss^ to transform the situation, and put the results to work, AR is a par­ticipatory process in which everyone involved takes some responsibility.

All these different approaches are further subdivided by the kinds of topics they deal with: community development, change in educational systems, eco­nomic development and liberation in the Third World, participatory change in core institutions of society (companies, administrative bureaucracies, and so on). Many of these different approaches to AR are incompatible. Some rest on Marxist notions of political economy and social transformation; others are rooted in pragmatic philosophy; still others build on a particular brand of social psychology; and a few simply advocate that, whatever the question, participa­tion is the answer. We take seriously the obligation to make the reader aware of these differences, but we harbor no illusions about reconciling them.

Source: Greenwood Davydd J., Levin Morten (2006), Introduction to Action Research: Social Research for Social Change, SAGE Publications, Inc; 2nd edition.

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