Transforming Suppression—Process in Our Participatory Action Research Practice

  • Susan Goff Window Media Pty Ltd T/A CultureShift
Keywords: purpose, emergent power, process, practice, position, oppression, self-determination, interdependency, best practice, reconciliation

Abstract

There are many personal and cultural pathways into the worlds of action learning and research. Despite this variety there is a world that we as practitioners share. This world seems to be defined by our resistance to oppression as much as it is defined in our willingness to construct non-oppressive ways of working in this world. Our world is not discipline specific, or owned by any particular social group (as defined by demographics). In our resistance and creativity we can be highly critical in determining validity. How can we, in this environment characterised by tension, develop practices which credibly inform us that what we are doing is indeed credible participatory learning and research? This paper proposes some ways of distinguishing action research and learning processes in our practices-particularly with regard to experiences of reconciliation at an inter-racial level. Rather than naming a particular process as being generically recognisable as action research or learning, I reflect on how in my practice as a facilitator of participatory action research I recognise and develop process, and how this, rather than being an example of good practice, can easily become an example of very poor practice. To be specific—practice that oppresses even in my resistance to oppression. I explore some of the possibilities that purpose and position offer as foundations for negotiation processes with participants. Using negotiation, collaborative reflection and decision-making as the fundamental practices of community building, we can willingly bring our great diversity into effective congruency. We can also blind and deafen ourselves, crippling our ability to educate the oppressor within and without. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0101211

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Author Biography

Susan Goff, Window Media Pty Ltd T/A CultureShift
Susan GOFF. Batchelor of Arts (Theatre Arts, Western Australian Institute of Technology; Graduate Diploma (Social Ecology, School of Social Ecology, University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury); Masters in Applied Science (Social Ecology, University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury). Susan Goff is the Director of Window Media Pty Ltd T/A CultureShift and Vice President of the Action Learning Action Research and Process Management Association. CultureShift is a Participatory Action Research Consultancy comprised of independent learning and research facilitators whose work is supported by production capabilities. With these resources, CultureShift enables corporate, community, academic and public stakeholders to raise critical questions about their current communities of responsibility and supports them to carry out their own inquiry strategy in collaboration with each other. The inquiry can take the form of an evaluation, an extended participatory research strategy, or mentored co-learning programs. CultureShift works in social and environmental contexts, seeking to integrate both within a social ecology framework. The company's overall purpose is to develop meta-level propositions regarding research practices for environmental and social benefit. CultureShift is recognised by academics and public sector bodies for leading the Australian field in the development and implementation of participatory learning and research methods, particularly in public and community domains. Since her publication "Restraint of Love" (Southern Cross University Press, Lismore, 1996), Susan has been developing, critiquing and publishing papers on her theory of participatory research practice. Her work covers a great breadth of issues including crime prevention, public health, first world poverty, family violence, Indigenous sovereignty, catchment management, waste minimisation and natural resource management. In all cases the consultancies have addressed the issues of organisational learning and management to respond to new issues and ways of working with them from best practice, to strategic planning and case management.
Published
2001-02-28