It marks a radical rejection of positivist epistemologies underscored by claims of objectivity and neutrality; rather, researchers adopt an overtly political position through their commitments to participation, co-production and social justice. A small number of CMS scholars have highlighted the shared ideological premises of CMS and participatory research, for example by noting their mutual concerns regarding oppression, voice and power Voronov, However, they recognise that in the context of research with corporate organisations, emancipatory objectives risk being hijacked to advance managerial goals.
In light of this, they argue that any prospective uptake of participatory approaches would need to be met with a related shift towards researching concrete alternatives. This article aims to contribute to these discussions by making a case for CMS to further develop a participatory stream of inquiry within the growing field of research on alternative organisations.
In light of this, I do not wish to make a universal argument for the role of PAR. Instead, I position its radical epistemological premises and practices, when adopted in conjunction with the critical commitments of the field, as one way, amongst others, to constructively address concerns around the practical significance of CMS research.
This article explores the promise of PAR, alongside some of the challenges associated with its practice, by drawing on my own experiences carrying out a four-year research project with a community kitchen based in the South of England. I present this paper in six sections. The first introduces PAR from its political and philosophical roots, identifying how the participatory worldview informs commitments to participation, voice and the co-development of knowledge in the service of social change Heron and Reason, The second illustrates the role of PAR in shaping the performative identity of the diverse economies research associated with feminist political economists Gibson-Graham, The third section discusses how this field has informed my own theoretical and empirical engagements with the community kitchen, and outlines the process of collaboratively establishing the research objectives with members of the community kitchen.
Fourth, I outline the structured ethical reflection method Stevens et al. Fifth, I introduce the learning history method at the centre of the research. This is a narrative approach to PAR that involves bringing a core group of co-researchers into a process of reflection and learning on key organisational issues to develop narrative documents that inform action Roth and Bradbury, Finally, the sixth section outlines some of the key findings, analysis, and contributions of the research, demonstrating how it generated an intersection of practical and theoretical knowledge on the social practice of care.
It also reflects on some of the ethical tensions that arose and considers the limitations of the research outcomes. Participatory forms of research are sometimes approached from a purely methodological viewpoint, which risks side-lining political commitments to voice, participation and empowerment that are so central to its practice.
These commitments can be traced back to the work of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire and his belief that liberation from oppression must come directly from those who have experienced it. This is a process through which learning generates critical insights about oppression that raise consciousness around how networks of power and subjugation operate, are sustained and perpetuated, such that individuals are empowered to speak out and take action against such systems. The participatory worldview identifies participation as fundamental to our experience of being in the world and making sense of all that we encounter Heron and Reason, Its relational ontology, often expressed as a form of communitarianism Gustavesen, , shapes the social and ecological justice commitments at the heart of PAR.
The implication of this belief is that the individuals and social groups at the focus of social science research should participate in the knowledge produced about them. Instead of treating knowledge as a cognitive phenomenon that centres on the individual insights of the researcher who treats participants as passive objects of study, knowledge is co-generated through relationships, open dialogue, and action Gaventa and Cornwall, Participants play a central and active role in the knowledge production process, which draws on the breadth of their experiences and local knowledge.
The communities involved in the research have ownership of the knowledge produced, and can utilise it to create the changes they want to see. It begins with the inquiry group identifying a particular issue they would like to change, planning the change, acting and observing the process and result of this change, reflecting, and then re-planning the process again. As the cycles of action and reflection evolve, new learning and knowledge emerges which can inform and change the course of the research.
It is for this reason that action research adopts an emergent form, requiring a fluid and malleable inquiry process that can adapt as the co-researchers engage in new learning that shapes action. There is an extensive body of literature on participatory research methods. A good starting point is The Sage encyclopaedia of action research Coghlan and Brydon-Miller, , which provides an overview of hundreds of methods, including the learning history and structured ethical reflection at the centre of my research with the community kitchen. If we are to cultivate a participatory stream of inquiry within CMS research with alternative organisations, one place we might look to for inspiration is diverse economies research in the field of political geography.
In this sense, it holds strong parallels with research on alternative organisations, which has sought to decentre capitalist forms of organisation by casting light on a range of alterative organisational realities Parker et al. Reading for economic difference and diversity enables us to transcend theorisations of capitalist dominance, radically reframing our understanding of social and organisational life and casting light on a range of community economies responding to social and ecological justice concerns Gibson-Graham, Rather than judging and dualistically defining these spaces as good or bad, alternative or mainstream, their approach requires being open to learning, recognising them as fluid and contingent as they seek to negotiate a better future in the austere conditions of the here and now.
Martin et al.
This field provides copious examples of where PAR has been used to engender collaborations with alternatives, such as community food economies Cameron et al. It provides a rich source of inspiration for further developing a stream of inquiry on alternative organising that is underscored by a critically performative and emancipatory agenda. Indeed, the theoretical and methodological tools of this field informed my own doctoral research project with the community kitchen, which aimed to develop an intersection of theoretical and practical knowledge on the challenges of sustaining an emergency food provisioning service.
The community kitchen, located in a city in the South of England, provides free community meals made from food waste collected from local stores and supermarkets. It is run by volunteers and is part of a larger national charity that has a network of similar emergency food provisioning projects. It adopts a dual social and environmental justice focus, responding to the food waste crisis and an intersection of pressing social crises, such as hunger, fuel poverty, social isolation, and loneliness. It is based in a community centre located in an inner-city neighbourhood reported to have some of the highest rates of child poverty in the country.
The community meals are open to the public, attended by many marginalised social groups, such as people who are vulnerably housed, living with mental health issues, living with drug and substance addiction, single parent families, and pensioners. Aside from the community meals, the volunteers also run outreach educational workshops and pop-up meal events, many of which communicate political messages about the systemic causes of hunger and food waste.
Cloke et al. I bring together this reading for difference approach with feminist theories of care. Feminist care ethics depart from assumptions about the rationality of morality by situating moral decision-making in grounded social contexts, calling upon our lived experiences and affective responses to both others and the world around us to determine moral courses of action Gilligan, Second generation care theorists, such as Joan Tronto , , break from early essentialist constructs of care as a gendered moral disposition, extending our understandings of care as an activity that takes place in private and local settings, to position it as a radical social practice.
Tronto points towards the potential of lived caring engagements to stimulate a critical analysis of social relations of power and inequality that can motivate us to push for systemic change. However, she also documents how socially constructed moral boundaries have historically excluded the voices and experiences of women and other marginalised groups.
The positioning of morality as requiring a detached and disinterested perspective, that is distinct and separate from politics, side-lines political arguments for care that foreground structural issues of inequality and social relations of power. By casting the experiences of marginalised groups as personal and private concerns, rather than public issues that require a political response, dominant power relations are sustained and perpetuated.
She argues that re-negotiating these boundaries is crucial in order to carve out a place for care-based moralities in social life. Hamington argues that although a number of scholars have developed theoretical accounts of the transformative potential of care, there are very few empirical inquiries that explore how these ideas give meaning to grounded social contexts. My research responds to this gap, while also addressing a practical issue of pressing concern to the core team co-researchers. It is important to point out that my role, as a researcher, was to work alongside the community kitchen team who were co-researchers in the inquiry.
Following the guidance of Sarah, a community kitchen project co-ordinator, I sought consent from the central charity to carry out the research, and Sarah and I informed the central team of its focus. I was not under any obligation to serve the managerial interests of the charity beyond respecting their request for anonymity in the publication of the research. Different members of the community kitchen team had approached the central charity on multiple occasions, prior to the research, to discuss their concerns, so the central charity were aware of these issues before the research was initiated.
The structured ethical reflection SER is a collaborative approach to research ethics, influenced by communitarian and feminist ethics Stevens et al. It was developed in recognition that the standard ethical review processes, focused on individual researcher reflections and meeting universal ethical protocols, leaves little space for the voice and participation of those at the centre of the research.
Three Social Studies Teachers’ Design and Use of Inquiry Modules
In this case the SER helped navigate ethical challenges that arose and shaped collective decision-making at different junctures in the research. I initiated the SER early in the research with three co-researchers who were involved in the co-ordination of the community kitchen and were my first point of contact for instigating the research.
I provided a list of over 60 values drawn from the SER literature, which are derived from ethics associated with PAR and intended to help guide the selection process Stevens et al. In recognising the limitations of using prescribed values developed in a Western cultural context, I also invited the group to select their own. The three co-researchers identified and discussed five values, which were then presented to the wider co-researcher team, who revised and adapted them until they were satisfied.
Narrative Inquiry in Practice: Advancing the Knowledge of Teaching by Nona Lyons
The values were placed into the left column of an SER grid, with the top columns representing the stages in a research project, such as developing partnerships, constructing research questions, and the publication of research. Drawing on these values I worked through an SER grid to develop a series of ethical questions relating to the different stages of the research. The grid below Figure 1 demonstrates this process in relation to two values. The SER is not intended to provide a clear direction or definitive answer to ethical concerns, but rather to open collaborative reflection, discussion, and mindfulness of important issues, which the researcher would be unlikely to identify through individual reflection alone.
Despite efforts to diversify the volunteer body by encouraging fluidity between guest and volunteer roles, a significant proportion of the volunteers, including myself, were white, middle-class and lived in neighbourhoods outside where the community kitchen is located. Reflections on the value of social justice opened discussion on the potential for the research to privilege these majority voices, particularly given the inward-looking focus on addressing the relationship between volunteers and central charity representatives responsible for delivering social projects of care into communities.
The co-researcher team comprised of 15 people; four core project co-ordinators, seven self-identified as volunteers, and four identified as being involved in both guest and volunteer roles. The participation of these voices was of central importance. Further in this article I identify actions I took that aimed to include these individuals in the research process.
These decisions were informed not only by the PAR literature, but also guidance on researching with socially marginalised groups Liamputtong, and a mental health-training course I attended before beginning the research. The learning history method is a narrative approach to action research, developed for use in organisational contexts Gearty et al. It involves bringing together the team of co-researchers to participate in individual and collective reflection on a pressing organisational issue. Through the research process they build materials that will allow them to address this issue with the view to creating change.
Central to this is the construction of a learning history document, described as a jointly told tale between the researcher and organisational members Roth and Bradbury, In this case, the learning history provided a process through which members of the community kitchen and national charity could address the long-standing tensions in their relationship.
While members of the community kitchen had previously attempted to raise these concerns individually, the research sought to co-generate a collective and critically constructive voice intended to open dialogue with members of the central team on key concerns held by community kitchen volunteers, and call for a more democratic strategy with participatory structures of decision-making.
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I conducted interviews with 15 members of the co-researcher team, before bringing the co-researchers together for a series of workshops that focused on their relationship to the national charity. The workshops included a range of creative exercises that sought to explore different experiences and perspectives on this relationship. We want to acknowledge the important contribution of Jane Attanucci, who read and commented on the manuscript at a crucial point, and, of Joan Moon, who gave us critical editorial support.
We especially thank our students, our colleagues, and our own mentors: Maxine Greene, who has celebrated narrative and the imagination as ways of knowing, particularly of the little known, the likely marginalized; Lee Shulman, who has steadfastly and eloquently promoted a knowledge of teaching; Blythe Clinchy and Mary Belenky, who advanced our knowledge through their own important work on ways of knowing; Nel Noddings and Carol Gilligan for revelations as to the centrality of caring relationships and communications in education; and Jean Clandinin and Michael Connelly, who went before, crafting narrative inquiry into a significant research mode for studying experience in education.
They helped us stay the course.
Introduction Long before we envisioned a book on narrative knowing or considered narrative practices as potential exemplars, models for investigating teaching practice, we were engaged in conversations around our own teaching and research. Seeking an alternative to the then standard mode of teacher assessment, namely objective tests, which, in our view, cannot capture the often messy, unpredictable complexities of teaching practice, we began in the early s asking our teacher interns to construct a teaching portfolio.
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We experimented with portfolios and followed our students into their early years of teaching. Each January, we came together with other teachers and teacher-educators to share our work at the Portfolio Conference one of us convened at the Harvard-Radcliffe Cronkhite Graduate Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We watched with keen interest as the newly constituted National Board for Professional Teaching Standards began requiring experienced teachers to prepare a teaching portfolio as part of their application for board certification. They eventually led us to the discovery of how narrative is implicated in portfolio work and, by extension, in other teaching practices.
We came to see that narrative was not simply storytelling, but could be a mode of inquiry, a way of knowing, knowing about teaching. The classic argument between teachers rooted in the contexts of their inquiries versus impartial, detached university researchers emerged. Could a knowledge of teaching created by practitioners really count? To whom? By what criteria? With what validity? How did we come to see these interconnections and why do we believe narrative inquiry is a significant way to address them? It was patently evident in the construction of the story of a teacher as a beginning professional, as he or she gathered evidence and reflected on learning about teaching and learning—the essential elements of a teaching portfolio.
What connection was there to becoming a reflective practitioner, a clear goal of our portfolio work? LaBoskey, ; Lyons, When we discovered—as did the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards—that not all new or experienced teachers easily engage in reflection or distinguish among description, analysis, and reflection, we interviewed our own students, taped their portfolio discussions, and pondered their responses and our own practices. We reviewed how we were scaffolding the portfolio process, reexamining the first exercises we used to introduce reflection.
Conversations became texts to examine and hold up to scrutiny for teachers themselves.