Monday, April 15, 2013

Shaping Research: Key Informants

Despite our different ways of engaging with communities, my co-author, Dr. Debbi Main, and I we have both found that the relevance and meaning of our findings is shaped by who we engage in our research. Because key informants - whether in an anthropologist’s ethnography or a health researcher’s community-based participatory research (CBPR) - can be so influential in shaping a study’s direction, we felt it would be important to cast a critical eye on how this influence can happen and how it may be affected by the role or position of said key informant in the population under study.

Using theoretical and empirically-driven arguments from a number of social science disciplines, we make a case that key informants remain important to community-engaged research, but that new researchers and those new to this style of research, need to ask themselves who their key informants are (are they professionals in the community, are they residents?) and how these roles may affect the knowledge they provide (e.g., their perspectives on community priorities and community member behaviors), the doors they open (with whom do they interact in the community, to whom can they help researchers gain access), and their position(s) of power relative to community members (are they in a position of power to push an agenda on the community?). These are issues that emerge in community-engaged research, regardless of specific methodological tools, region of study, or general area of interest/focus. The increased collaboration of researchers with those they research blurs lines that other approaches insist should be rigid and clear. However, the great strength of community-engaged research is its relevance to and potential empowerment of participating cultures, neighborhoods, and groups. Yet, we cannot optimize these benefits if we don’t have a full understanding of the nature of the data provided, the questions asked, and the people participating. 

Stacey A. McKenna and Debbi Main

Free access to Stacey and Debbi's new article in Action Research Journal is available free for 30 days here. We'd love to engage in conversation with you about your response to this article.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

ARJ Vision Mission: From the desk of the Editor

The associate editors of Action Research have been getting more strategic of late.  The first step in embracing strategy work is to declare a vision. And so we declared that, in a nutshell, we care deeply about “re-enchanting Knowledge Creation For a Flourishing World.”

Our purpose with Action Research is to offer a forum for participative, action oriented inquiry into questions that matter--questions relevant to people in the conduct of their lives, that enable them to flourish in their organizations and communities, and that evince a deep concern for the wider ecology. We disseminate actionable knowledge to help people, organizations, communities and societies flourish. We foster the widespread impact of the action orientation to knowledge creation.

Our immodest aim is to help recover and transform the very idea of social science.  We want to continue the dialogue that will contribute to a viable alternative to the conventional models of social science. As debates about the limits of a 'disinterested' social science continue and while we wait for and work toward a world that is more just and sustainable, constructive alternatives to science as we know it are needed to fill the void. Our intent is to assist the Academy as well as the public and private sector to discover additions and alternatives to heretofore "ivory tower" positivist model of science, research and practice.
Our goal is to establish an international community for the scholar practitioners who work both in academia and various communities of practice. We wish to present innovative work from the field of action research to help refresh those who have been working in this domain, while simultaneously establishing a respected outlet for ground-breaking new work and writers. We are committed to representing the perspectives of diverse schools and practitioners in our selection of special issue topics, while simultaneously providing a model of social science for the 21st Century.
We believe it important to integrate research/practice that includes first-person, second-person and third-person research/practice. First-person research/practice refers to how we as researchers foster the ability to act with awareness, so as to assess effects in the outside world while acting. Second-person action research/practice addresses our ability to inquire face-to-face with others productively. Third-person research/practice aims to create a wider community of inquiry.

We invite promising papers! Please see our submission guidelines and more the our resouces for authors, especially submission guidelines here.

Hilary Bradbury-Huang, Portlandia 2013.