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Critical and Relational Action Research: The Ambitions and Challenges of Collaboratively Addressing Policy Issues

Governance
Policy Analysis
Political Methodology
Political Theory
Public Policy
Knowledge
Methods
Qualitative
P076
Koen Bartels
University of Birmingham

Building: Faculty of Law, Floor: 1, Room: FL120

Thursday 15:50 - 17:30 (08/09/2016)


Abstract

Action research is proving an increasingly popular approach in policy analysis. By action research we refer to a wide variety of approaches involving participatory processes of collaborating with (policy) actors to produce scientifically and socially relevant knowledge and transformative action. While relatively neglected for a long time, a rich and engaging conversation has emerged over the past years about what action research has to offer. Sharing our experiences in a wide variety of backgrounds revealed the value and difficulties of integrating its transformative ambitions and practices. We found that doing so requires critical and relational approaches. On the one hand, action research aims to be critical of what is there by transforming habits, discourses and power inequalities engrained in hegemonic systems. On the other hand, action researchers are required to be relational by maintaining trust, share goals, be committed, as well as pragmatically accept the constraints of the situation at hand and what is practically possible. We therefore welcome reflections on experiences with various action research (and related) approaches from a variety of backgrounds that will improve our understanding of how critical and relational approaches (and the associated practices, roles, relationships, and theories) can be used to transform policy issues. Specifically, invite contributors to explore questions about the goals, contexts and impacts of action research: • When is it a suitable approach and why? • For whom and what is it and how is this reflected in its practices and ambitions? • Whom are we engaging with and how are desired changes established? • How can we combine a critical approach with practical impacts towards structural change? The wider aim of the panel is to gather potentially interested contributors to an edited volume about action research in policy analysis that compares approaches and evaluates goals, contexts and impacts.

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