Action-oriented Collaboration between Academic and Non-academic Researchers

Understanding Local Development Processes in the General Context of Social Research

The present study is a reflection on two topics based on the experiences I have gained in a PAR process in the past years as a researcher. I first try to answer the question raised by the editors: what is the relevance of cooperative and action-orientated research processes in relation to human-centered local development processes and policies aimed at social justice and environmental sustainability? After that I introduce the main messages PAR has taught me concerning social research processes in general. According to my experiences PAR helps us to examine our knowledge from new aspects and gain exceptionally deep understanding of social phenomena (situations) by combining experience and critical reflection. It helps researchers to meaningfully understand that changing complex social situations is far more difficult than formulating related (e.g. policy) suggestions from an outsider, “objective”, conventional researcher perspective. Therefore, PAR might gain special relevance in research processes where the output is (also) related to policy suggestions. PAR also helps to understand how inequalities and power function in society – this way it might also help researchers to develop critical attitudes towards the related (oppressive) effects/aspects of their own functioning and methodology. It also helps us to critically reflect on the notion of “good” quality knowledge – to develop a critical stance towards our own knowledge, methods, innervations and limits as researchers. Last but not least, PAR helps to reduce frustrations for those researchers who intend to produce knowledge with short-term practical social benefits and do not find this opportunity in conventional research approaches.

Released: Replika 100, 61–69.