what we do: action research

Contemporary action research blends reflective and collaborative methods of inquiry with traditional research methodologies. Participatory action research involves key participants in framing their questions, designing the most appropriate methods for their situation, and gathering and analysing the information. It is, at heart, a process of learning together.

In the past several years, South House Exchange partners have incorporated more participatory action research approaches and techniques into our organizational consulting practice. We have been working with the founders of SAS2 Dialogue Inc. (Social Analysis Systems) and with the powerful SAS2 collaborative research and dialogue techniques. We have also introduced SAS2 approaches to the Ginger Group Collaborative and are working together in a small Ginger-SAS2 community of practice, to expand our action research repertoire.

Some examples:

** A project evaluation for the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), of the Canadian Council of Area Studies Learned Societies (CCASLS), using four different SAS2 techniques in a one-day workshop with CCASLS members to reflect on the achievements, obstacles and future directions of CCASLS.

** An innovative and participatory impact evaluation of the international youth exchange program of Canada World Youth was based on four specially designed SAS2 techniques for 17 one-day workshops in five countries. The evaluation assessed the impact on participants’ knowledge, skills, values and attitudes, inter-relationships, career and educational choices, and their civic engagement activities several years after their experience with the exchange program. SAS2 techniques were also designed for information-gathering with host community members in all five countries.

workshop in mali

** For the Canadian International Development Agency (Canadian Partnership Branch), we designed a participatory workshop for the mid-term evaluation of CIDA’s Volunteer Cooperation Program. Seventeen workshops in West Africa involved many of the West African partners of the ten volunteer cooperation agencies funded by CIDA, and offered partners a different way of assessing the impact of Canada’s programming in their communities.

** A planning session with the Genetics Department of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, to develop a public marketing strategy for the department’s services. A SAS2 technique known as “Social Domain Analysis” was employed with a mixed group of health and research professionals and adminstrators to assess the most fruitful communications strategy.