The following are the abstracts of the ALARA Monograph Series publications.
ALARA Financial Members and those with Temporary Member Access to this site can access the electronic version of all Monographs by going to the Monographs page. Printed versions of the ALARA Monographs are available from Sydney University Press.
Monograph No. 6 (2016) - Beyond the boundary: Is There Something Called ‘Real Knowledge’?
David Davies, Reem Shamshoum, James Nyland and Emer Clarke
Our longing for a connection between our past and our future is intense and widely felt, and modernity for many is a separation from our roots in local places, neighbourhoods and older communities. The new world is one where the old boundaries are disappearing alongside the old certainties. In fact the knowledge we had of places, of people and of ways of ‘being ourselves’ are increasingly redundant as the quickening pace of change and new forms of communication re-shape what we do and think and the way we feel about what we thought we knew and valued. Communication is now practically instantaneous through the internet; Google can provide us with immediate ‘knowledge’ of almost any topic under the sun; the virtual reality of the screen has become for so many the actual reality of life. For many this is a comfortable and inevitable immersion in a real and existentially rewarding life. For many others it is a world of uncertainty where reality is a form of ‘distanciation’ – a place set apart from our direct experience and lying beyond our sense of being in a community. This leads us to ask what then will replace the old forms of knowing and the old certainties? It surely must be knowledge and learning that is relevant and useful, yet it must take us both to the problems that face us and to the possibility of change and progress.
This paper is organised into four sections. Section 1 explores six themes which are threatening our current sense of well-being and futures. Section 2 explores a specific place and culture – Nazareth in Palestine/Israel. Some of the impact of the destabilisation of community life is exemplified by the case study of Mawwal – a centre for Dance and Arts located in Nazareth. Section 3 goes on to explore the transformations brought about by creative arts and dance therapies within a community based centre of arts and culture and learning. Section 4 attempts to assess some of the implications for learning and knowledge which engaging with these themes and issues brings into focus.
This paper, therefore, aims to explore and understand something of the nature of knowledge that can be gained beyond the classroom or lecture theatre. It looks beyond the boundary and it focuses on issues to do with learning and knowledge in workplaces, communities and life experience.
Monograph No. 5 (2013) - Action Research Engagement: Creating the Foundations for Organizational Change
Wendy E. Rowe, Marie Graf, Niels Agger-Gupta, Eileen Piggot-Irvine and Brigitte Harris
The Action Research Engagement model (ARE) describes principles and implementation steps of an initiative that helps organizational stakeholders increase their engagement and ‘readiness’ for the change phase of action research. ARE is a cyclical process of inquiry, dialogue and deliberation that aims to lead organizational members to: shift in attitudes toward change; open understanding of different points of view on issues and opportunities for change; identify potential approaches to challenges and barriers; generate vision/goals, strategies and actions; and lead to viable action plans for sustainable change. This preparatory ARE model is based on theoretical premises about the role of dialogue and participation in inquiry processes in generating engagement, commitment and ‘readiness’ for change—all of which are necessary and foundational to a successful change intervention. Two case studies illustrate the ARE model and processes.
Monograph No. 4 (2013) - Engaging the Arts, Humanities and Design in Action Research and the Helping Professions
David Moxley, Holly Fern Calligan and Olivia G.M. Washington
By using content from two action research projects, the authors offer an original theory of developmental action research incorporating the benefits of the arts, humanities and design. Through identification of a problem or need for change, imagination of potential solutions, and mobilization of next steps, parallel methods in artistic and design processes and action research can converge to facilitate reflexivity and praxis as products of purposeful action to engage in social betterment in partnership with people who experience marginalization.
The authors offer a rationale for the inclusion of the arts, humanities and design linking action research and the helping professions. They then consider the aesthetic dimension of action research and show how the studio setting can serve as a safe environment for experimentation and self-expression through verbal and non-verbal modalities, where the artistic/design processes and products serve as metaphors for or equivalents of behaviors and experiences used to develop prototypes for action and change. Through reflection and validation from others, individuals gain insight and together work to design methods for individual and collective development and social activism. The process of creative self-expression involving action and reflection in groups facilitates catharsis, inspiration, and motivation steering subsequent action.
The authors propose how the arts, humanities and design augment action research goals through recognizing environmental and aesthetic impacts, reflection upon common experiences and identification of strengths and resources to motivate and effect change among those who experience social marginalization.
The arts, humanities and design contribute to action research by:
Putting a human face on a social issue; illuminating individuals’ first-hand experiences with a social issue;
Helping to develop innovative strategies for individual and social change;
Contributing to social justice and the emancipation of marginalized people;
Creating community as people from diverse backgrounds discover common interests and mutuality;
Identifying potential solutions to social problems;
Facilitating expression of emotion;
Mobilizing action within the participants themselves, as well as public audiences; and
Challenging biases may bring to social issues.
In considering developmental action research that incorporates the arts, humanities and design the authors offer a set of ethical practices involving dignity, authenticity, creativity and participation that together can transform action for social betterment.
Monograph No. 3 (2012) - Donors as stakeholders in Community-Based Participatory Action Research: Praxis as typology in framing their roles
Zermarie Deacon and David Moxley
Recognizing the novelty of community based participatory action research (CBPAR), potential donors may be skeptical of the models, processes, and forms of research this genre incorporates in working with communities and those constituencies that are too often omitted from the governance of research. Participatory forms of action research pose their own resource requirements, which may differ from more traditional forms of social research, particularly in the early stages of inquiry. This monograph explores the impact of the donor perspective, donor types, and corresponding levels of engagement on CBPAR research. Accordingly, the impact that donors have upon the kind of participatory inquiry that is planned and executed is likely taken for granted and never evaluated. This is especially problematic given the value-based nature of CBPAR and its emphasis upon democratic processes in research planning and administration. The application for, and receipt of, external funding may either support or undermine this accepted system of values. Practitioners of CBPAR should be aware of this impact. Conversely, donors may be unaware of the ways in which they can uniquely leverage CBPAR in order to achieve their own social change goals. The principal focus of the proposed monograph is thus to facilitate an awareness of the impact that donors have on CBPAR as well as to outline ways in which donors and participants can better collaborate in order to leverage the potential of this form of inquiry. Following an overview of the CBPAR model and relevant action research methodology we use to advance our understanding of the donor typology, we (a) offer an overview of the four types of donors, (b) consider the influence of each of the four donors on the direction and feasibility of CBPAR, (c) outline implications for working with donors across the continuum of types, and (d) make suggestions for improving the donor-participant collaboration.
Monograph No. 2 (2011) - Building Leadership Capacity - Sustainable Leadership
Auckland Maungakiekie Principals' Group Action Research Project 2009 - 2010
Eileen Piggot-Irvine et al
This monograph outlines an action research project that was a learning journey for a group of New Zealand principals who wanted to improve the way that they addressed problems with their staff. The principals committed to exploring how they could overcome their defensive ways of operating in such stressful situations. Their goal was to use dialogue to be open and therefore trusted by staff. The typical action research phases of reconnaissance, implementation and evaluation were followed. Multiple outcomes resulted for the group and their staff with the most important that concerns/problems with staff were confronted via the use of dialogue and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that this was done in a way that maintained relationships that were based on values of honesty and integrity.
This paper has been written collaboratively with the principals, with the plural ‘we’ outlining a report of the learning journey from their perspective.
Monograph No. 1 (2011) - Actioning Change and Lifelong Learning in Community Development
Judith Kearney and Ortrun Zuber-Skerritt, with The Voice of Samoan People
This paper presents the key principles and processes of transformational lifelong learning and positive change in a community development program with a Samoan community in Australia. The paper takes a qualitative approach to community development using participatory action learning and action research.
Our inquiry shows that while the Samoan community is a disadvantaged migrant group in Australia, collaborative community partnerships can help to address disadvantage in level of education and consequently in employment within the community. Participatory action learning and action research are powerful methodologies for achieving quality learning at the personal, professional, team and community levels. These methodologies are particularly relevant when working with Pacific communities as they align with practices that are culturally appropriate to these communities.
The community development program entailed a low-cost, pragmatic, supportive and self-sustaining approach to education through an enabling framework designed by the Global University for Lifelong Learning (GULL). Although the framework was designed mainly for communities in developing countries, it proved to be an effective system for promoting lifelong learning and positive change in a disadvantaged community in a ‘developed’ country.
The research and development discussed in this paper therefore have implications for other disadvantaged communities. In Australasia, these include refugees and Indigenous groups. However the insights gained through this study may be useful for community development in disadvantaged communities in any national context, in both ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ countries.
We present findings in new models that enhance understanding of the key principles and processes involved in lifelong learning and positive change through a community development program. The models clarify the utility of these principles and processes for application wherever disadvantaged communities need a low-cost, self-sustaining approach to education as an enabling vehicle to address disadvantage.
ARCS Monograph No. 2 (2005) - How Can Professionals Help People to Inquire Using their own Action Research?
I want to re-visit the differences between research which is conducted by human services professionals on, about and for their primary and ultimate beneficiaries – clients, patients, or community members – in contrast to research which is more for, by and with primary and ultimate beneficiaries. I want to do this in light of the widespread continuation of a model of ‘professionalism’ that rests heavily on valuing preexisting professional knowledge and evidence-bases. That is, the persistence of a model of professional expertise that presumes the applicability of prior knowledge developed from other professionals’ research, in contrast to seeing professional expertise as lying in knowing how to develop that knowledge more from and with intended beneficiaries, constantly testing it with those beneficiaries for continued relevance at each new application.
I give two case examples to illuminate these differences and affirm the value of approaching professional practice as the facilitation and resourcing of people’s own inquiries. The first is an instance where professional staff proceeded with the research they saw as needed to help low income women (for, about and on the critical reference group). Meanwhile the low income women simultaneously proceeded to plan the research they saw as needed to help their situations (with and by the critical reference group). The second case example illuminates more deeply an extended effort that commenced with research done for, about and on, but moved to be research with and by the end-beneficiaries. This involved differing constellations of researcher/s, research facilitators, researched and researched-for as a responsive shift took place in the locus of power from professionals to beneficiaries – ultimately leading to greater success. I conclude by briefly summarising the conditions that seem to assist (or hinder) professionals researching more with and by their intended end-beneficiaries.
ARCS Monograph No. 1 (1994) - Consulting on a Consultation Protocol
Not a lot has been written about the "how" of designing effective stakeholder involvement in decision-making.
In 1991 I had an excellent opportunity to live some of my values about stakeholder involvement and experiment with an action research approach when I worked on the Consultation Protocol Project. This project was being conducted by the Social Policy Unit of the Office of Cabinet in Queensland, Australia, and aimed to produce guidelines (protocol) for consulting with stakeholders which could be used by all state government departments.
I became involved in the project because I believed in the usefulness of democratic participation for all sorts of reasons but particularly because I believed it was an empowering experience for community participants. I saw myself as working alongside participants as a participant-observer.
From February until September 1991, I functioned as a consultant to the project working with staff from the Office of Cabinet to develop the protocol. We decided that we would consult about the consultation protocol, and for me the means, or process, of consultation about the content was just as important as the end, or protocol document.
I chose action research as the methodology because it is congruent with my values about striving for real social change, and because it is collaborative. It seemed to me to be an excellent path for practicing congruence in this project i.e making sure there was a match between what I said I was doing, and what I did. It was my first attempt at using an action research approach.
The project officer (office of Cabinet - Qld State Government) and I began talking with a few policy people in the state government about our perception that consultation was important, but wasn't being done well and our idea of putting together a document which would help guide future consultations. They agreed with our perceptions, indicated their willingness to be involved and at our request, suggested others who they thought might want to be involved.
And so the process snowballed, until we had over 100 participants from government, the community and community consultants. Four action research cycles formed, each around important events in the project, and each informing the next. Throughout the project, my colleague and I continued to read about consultation, what was included into the first draft of the protocol and was published between our first and second cycles. Participants not only inputted into the content (two refinements of the draft documents), they also contributed to the development of the process (the consultation they experienced).
However, perhaps because I was a novice at using action research I was unable to engender much interest in the approach, and was consequently unable to create much of a climate of critical reflection on our collective experiences in the project.
Final evaluations, however, indicated that if pressed participants were aware that there were outcomes other than the visible protocol document - networking relationships, some individual learning, and a realization that these intangible benefits of consultation need to be outlined in submissions for funding for consultative processes.
My personal learning was that I applied action research in a rather simplistic way, earning myself some negative feedback about my lack of focus on basic relationship-building. I also learned that it was arrogant of me to expect to empower others, and that I was really using more of a teaching model than a collaborative one.
The final Consultation Protocol was released by the Office of Cabinet in January 1994 after years of refinements.
The challenge for me now and in the future is to work at being aware of my personal framework when working with others, in order to avoid the danger of incongruency.