Action Learning and Action Research in Context

An analysis of the great array of uses to which Action Learning, Action Research and Process Management and the many innovations and hybrids that these founding methodologies have generated shows that there are four generic sectors that take up and develop our field. They are:

  • Governance - democratic decision making in public and corporate settings
  • Development - the meeting of a communities' practical needs
  • Learning - the use of inquiry to create transformation of systems and transformational systems
  • Activism - non-violent action to preserve human and environmental rights and responsibilities

There are many ways in which our field has been analysed, but this frame opens up discourse and development so that aligned disciplines and modes can recognise each other across the fragmentation that traditional demarcations can cause. It also relates to each practitioners' personal history: each of us tends to have come across AR and AL through one of these windows, and our practice tends to reflect one or more of these approaches and their "in-house" operating assumptions. Thus this field connects the individual practitioner with their organisation and the global field. In so doing, an energetic symbiosis is envisioned, making the sum of our parts much greater. Given our limited resources this would seem to be a wise way of enacting our members' vision of making AR and AL common place around the world by 2023.

ALARA adopted this framework as its strategic action template in 2008. This is consistent with enabling our management to build the organisation in response to members' needs and interests while also increasing our presence globally as an integrating, co-operative agent for our participatory field. The great variety of activities that the visioning strategy identified was reported in Action Plan against these categories of participatory practice. In other words, this approach to governance brought our management practice into closer alignment with participatory practice at a systemic level.

To get a sense of how AL and AR work in these four areas in the global field we provide the following case studies:

Governance: http://caepr.anu.edu.au/research/Indigenous-Governance.php

Development: https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/participatory-action-research

Learning: http://www.jaapboonstra.nl/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Action-Reserach-Change-Capacity-EGOS1.pdf or http://bit.ly/1ubAUwE (two links to the same report)

Activism: http://www.thechangeagency.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/ecopolitics.pdf

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