Today’s pressing political, social, economic, and environmental crises urgently ask for effective policy responses and fundamental transitions towards sustainability supported by a sound knowledge base and developed in collaboration between all stakeholders.
This book explores how action research forms a valuable methodology for producing such collaborative knowledge and action. It outlines the recent uptake of action research in policy analysis and transition research and develops a distinct and novel approach that is both critical and relational. By sharing action research experiences in a variety of settings, the book seeks to explicate ambitions, challenges, and practices involved with fostering policy changes and sustainability transitions. As such it provides crucial guidance and encouragement for future action research in policy analysis and transition research.
This text will be of key interest to scholars and students of policy analysis and transition research and more broadly to public administration and policy, urban and regional studies, political science, research and innovation, sustainability science, and science and technology studies. It will also speak to practitioners, policymakers and philanthropic funders aiming to engage in or fund action research.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: Action Research in Policy Analysis and Transition Research [Koen P.R. Bartels and Julia M. Wittmayer]
Part I: Sustainability Crises and Actionable Knowledge and Research
2. Both Critical and Applied? Action Research and Transformative Change in the UK Water Sector [Emma L. Westling and Liz Sharp]
Co-inquirer reflection by Chris Digman
3. Cooperative Research for Bottom-up Food Sovereignty and Policy Change [Bálint Balázs and György Pataki]A reflection on attending to content and process in participatory research for social change by Csilla Kiss and Borbála Sarbu-Simonyi
4. Transition Scientivism: On Activist Gardening and Co-producing Transition Knowledge ‘From Below’ [Shivant Jhagroe]
Co-inquirer reflection by Rutger Henneman
Part II: Critical-Relational Heuristics for Action Research
5. Cultivating ‘Sanction and Sanctuary’ in Scottish Collaborative Governance: Doing Relational Work to Support Communicative Spaces [James Henderson and Claire Bynner]Co-inquirer reflection by Alison McPherson
6. Negotiating Space for Mild Interventions: Action Research on the Brink between Social Movements and Government Policy in Flanders [Erik Paredis and Thomas Block]Reflections on action research for the Transition Network Civil Society by Dirk Barrez
7. Soft Resistance: Balancing Relationality and Criticality to Institutionalise Action Research for Territorial Development [Ainhoa Arrona and Miren Larrea]
From the scepticism of some to widespread hope: the experience of Gipuzkoa in action research by Ander Arzelus
Part III: Approaches to Critical-Relational Action Research
8. Lipstick on a Pig? Appreciative Inquiry in a Context of Austerity [Alison Gardner]
Co-inquirer reflection by Liz Jones
9. Getting Unstuck: The Reconstruction Clinic as Pragmatic Intervention in Controversial Policy Disputes [Martien Kuitenbrouwer]
Co-inquirer reflection by Karima Arichi
10. Exploring the Use of Audiovisual Media for Deliberation: Reframing Discourses on Vulnerabilities to Climate Change in Nepal [Floriane Clement]Reflections on farmers policymakers' roundtables by Damakant Jayshi
11. Really Imagined: Policy Novels as a Mode of Action Research [Sonja van der Arend]Co-inquirer reflection by Martine de Vaan
12. Conclusion: Critical and Relational Action Research for Policy Change and Sustainability Transitions [Julia M. Wittmayer and Koen P.R. Bartels]
Koen P.R. Bartels is Lecturer in Management Studies at Bangor University, UK, where he teaches courses in public administration and qualitative research. He has published in leading journals, including Urban Studies, Environment and Planning C, Public Administration, Public Administration Review, and International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, as well as a book Communicative Capacity (2015).
Julia M. Wittmayer works at the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands. With a background in anthropology, she is interested in roles of and social relations and interactions between actors in sustainability transitions (governance).
"While action research has a significant policy history, policy analysis has largely been tied to an "expert" and "consultant" model. Several developments have led the field to increasingly recognize the need for analyzing policies by engaging in a collaborative process to change them and their outcomes for the benefit of civil society. Because of this Bartels and Wittmayer’s book is most welcome. It reinvigorates the necessary debate about how to develop and enact participatory, collaborative and sustainable policies in a world that has rapidly spiraled downward toward inequality and environmental catastrophe. Taking a deep dive into the methods and processes that enable participatory processes to work, they have provided an excellent overview of this field and the potential of action research to develop sustainable policies and re-stitch the social fabric that is being mercilessly torn apart for the benefit of the few." - Professor Davydd Greenwood, Cornell University, USA.
"Action research (AR) continues to perplex the average policy analyst – even those who seek to overcome the constraints of mainstream policy analysis. This book will answer most of their questions. The heart of the book consists of ten richly detailed descriptions that evoke the variety and creativity of action research. Each chapter is followed by a short reflection by the "co-inquirer" which helps us to understand how AR ‘lands’ in the experiential world of the practitioner. These are accounts are bookended by two highly useful chapters in which the editors describe and explain the essentials of AR in the context of the policy process and sustainability transition. This book represents an important innovation in policy analysis that should be included on the readings list of every practitioner and student in sustainability science and policy analysis." - Professor Hendrik Wagenaar, King’s College London, UK, and The University of Canberra, Australia.