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ALARA 2014 Australasian Conference

In conjunction with CultureShift Pty Ltd,

ALARA (now Action Learning, Action Research Association Ltd) held its 2014 Australasian Conference in Southern New South Wales.

Starting from Here: Self Determination as Functional Reform

A conference with two Themes.

Meaningful change on pressing social issues come only through processes of design, implementation and learning that engage those with a stake in the situation. Self-determination is the driver for sustainable reform of purpose, and methodology its bedrock.

The conference was designed for practitioners in the public, corporate, community and academic sectors working toward social and environmental justice in these demanding times. It engaged deeply with theories of practice in participatory research, to support emergent practice within the field. The participants celebrated the spirit of grass roots tenacity thriving amidst the realities of ideological shifts and economic austerity. The conference opened theory and practice, contextualising participatory research methods through experiential learning.

THE CONFERENCE CYCLES: There were TWO x 2-day events, at the Quaker retreat centre Silver Wattle, located on the shores of Weereewa, a traditional meeting place and ancient ephemeral lake just north of Canberra. The events began with dinner, on the evening before Day 1, and a welcome to participants and to the streams of participatory methodologies present.

About Day 1:
Open Space.
Participants were part of initiating conversations with co-learners and the AR specialists, and were understood and challenged in unexpected ways. They joined in collective reflection on the challenges and opportunities emerging around the conference theme.

About Day 2:
Design and test AR and AL methodologies.
Taking a true-to-life scenario, an Action Research Design Team of three experienced practitioners from across the Asia-Pacific region, in full view of the conference participants, developed an AR/AL design and co-facilitated its implementation with the participants. They experienced the chosen methodologies in action, and were part of debriefing the impact of that design. This cycle was run three times on Day 2, from initial engagement with the target sector, through the responses and choices participation generates. With the Design Team, the participants contributed to solving the methodological challenges as they arise.