Overviews

“Participatory Action-Research, Inclusiveness, and Empowering Community Action

at the Western Institute for Social Research”

Abstract

This article outlines the evolution of some strategies, methods and ideas about participatory, action-oriented, community-based inquiry that have evolved over the past 40 years.  The authors discuss some of the highlights of their involvements in educational reform and social change endeavors during this 40 year period, and how these involvements have shaped and contributed to their approach to participatory action-research.  During this time, the authors have lived and worked in California, while also having had the opportunity to work and learn with people involved in communities throughout the United States, and in a few cases, in other countries.  The authors focus on their vision of “participatory action-research,” and how it has been developed and put forth as a central feature of the learning in the alternative, community-based academic degree programs at the Western Institute for Social Research.  This article highlights the main qualities of this approach, and more specifically the role and techniques involved in: eliciting ideas and information from others, the analytic uses of group discussion, learning from others and in collaboration with others, and probing to look beneath the surface.  The authors note some of the intellectual currents which resonate with this approach, including the work of Paulo Freire and some of the very dynamic, rigorous and imaginative approaches to cutting-edge inquiry in the biological and physical sciences, as represented in Complexity Theory, for example.  In discussing these approaches, the authors note how we can go beyond the mechanistic, simplistic versions of science and become engaged in claiming science for all of us.  With the help of strategies such as these, and by further refining and improving on strategies such as these, we can approach the local and global challenges of the future with some measure of hope.   Continue reading —->

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