Learning and Teaching Participation through Action Research
In a time of rapid change, when global forces are re-shaping the ability of ordinary people to influence the decisions which affect their lives, social change practitioners are challenged to learn new skills and competences, and to develop their capacities for learning through critical reflection on action. Drawing on two international dialogues, and linking to the authors' perceptions of the fault-lines that underlie some elements of higher education, the article explores learning needs for action researchers who aspire to promote participation as a key element of social change.
The article presents the story of an innovative masters teaching programme within which action research is central to the overall learning process. Highlighting key challenges and also some unanticipated learning outcomes in regard to personal inquiry into identity, relationships, positionality and power, the article highlights issues relating to teaching and learning methods of reflective practice, bridging the personal and political and linking individual to systemic change.
A Learning Approach to Monitoring and Evaluation
This article draws on literature from both monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and organisational learning to explore synergies between these two fields in support of organisational performance. Two insights from the organisational learning literature are that organisations learn through ‘double-loop’ learning: reflecting on experience and using this to question critically underlying assumptions; and that power relations within an organisation will influence what and whose learning is valued and shared. This article identifies four incentives that can help link M&E with organisational learning: the incentive to learn why; the incentive to learn from below; the incentive to learn collaboratively; and the incentive to take risks. Two key elements are required to support these incentives: (1) establishing and promoting an ‘evaluative culture’ within an organisation; and (2) having accountability relationships where value is placed on learning ‘why’, as well as on learning from mistakes, which requires trust.
Participatory action research into donor-recipient relations: a case study
This article describes the exploratory and preparatory phase of a research project designed to use co-operative enquiry as a method for transformative and participatory action research into relations between donors and recipients in two developing countries, Bolivia and Bangladesh. It describes the origins of the idea, the conceptual challenges that the authors faced in seeking funding, and what they learned from this first phase. The authors analyse why the researchers, as well as the potential subjects of the research, were uncomfortable with the proposed methodology, including the challenges arising from their own positions and the highly sensitive nature of the topic. They explain why they decided to abandon the project, and they reach some tentative conclusions concerning the options for participatory action learning and research in development practice.