Roots And Wings Of Action Research

Categories: Action Research, Publishing, Writing and Editing

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The MethodSpace focus for October was on Action Research, and we are continuing to share posts on these participatory methods. November is Academic Writing Month with a 2020 focus on Publishing Trends (and what they mean for academic writers.) You can find the unfolding series of Action Research posts through this link, and you can find the AcWriMo posts through this link.

This guest post exemplifies two major trends: open access, and collaboration. Collaborative writing and co-authoring allow us to embrace diverse perspectives and bring others’ skills to the project. Please share this open access book with your networks!

Come And Join Us In The Endeavour To Transform Our Territories

by Mari Jose Aranguren, Ainhoa Arrona, Patricia Canto, Pablo Costamagna, Miren Estensoro, James Karlsen, Miren Larrea, Maite Reizabal, Silvina Romano, Amaia Zumeaga, Mikel Zurbano

This post is our first interaction with the research community to share that, after two years of a collaborative book writing experiment, the book Roots and Wings of Action Research for Territorial Development is finally published open access ( and our learning process is reaching a new stage when you, the reader of this post, can enter the scene.

We, the authors of this post, are a multilocal community of researchers living and working in four main locations—the Basque Country, Spain; Agder, Norway; Rafaela, Santa Fé, Argentina and Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. The title of the book is inspired by the phrase “the best we can give our children are roots to grow and wings to fly” and the book writing process has been our own attempt to grow and fly. Action Research for Territorial Development (ARTD) (Karlsen and Larrea, 2014) is a process that bonds this community together. But what is ARTD?

ARTD is not, from a theoretical point of view, a new approach to AR. It is the result of developing the pragmatist approach as proposed by Greenwood and Levin (2007), experimenting with democratic dialogue (Gustavsen, 1992) and reinterpreting the work of Paulo Freire, in AR processes with stakeholders in the Basque Country, Agder, Rafaela and Tierra del Fuego. ARTD thus bridges Southern Participatory Action Research (PAR) and the pragmatist, industrial democracy approach. In doing so, we have combined AR with theoretical frameworks coming from regional development (Europe), territorial economic development (Latin America), policy sciences and communication of social science.

We are an international community, and we work, learn, share, and discuss our local experiences with colleagues. The construction of ARTD among the four territorial environments has thus taken place collaboratively. However, this genuine desire to learn together and be influenced by others is compatible  with friendly mutual resistance to being colonised by the ideas of others. This means that we are aware of being part of different schools of thought that have sometimes related paternalistically to each other, believing that some “knew” while others had to be “taught”.  For example, the contribution from the Rafaela environment has explicitly been framed as part of the epistemology of the south, while some of us in European universities have grown aware of our taken for granted northern perspectives. This is partly visible in the choice of languages in which the chapters have been written.

The use of different languages is, precisely, one of the features of the book that we want to share with you as potential reader. The AR that inspires the contributions of this book has taken place in different parts of the world, where stakeholders and researchers interact in different languages. However, when the time comes to publish these experiences, English is the lingua franca of scholarly exchange (Canto et al, 2019). This is evident in the decision of the authors of eight out of the ten chapters of the book to publish in English, even though none of us are native English speakers. We are aware that this decision impoverishes academia in our mother tongues. That is why, we have used abstracts to integrate Basque, Norwegian, French, Portuguese,  German and Spanish in the book. These are the languages actually used by researchers and stakeholders in the processes described.

We feel our decision to make a multilingual statement is a good metaphor for the global challenges we are now facing. Whatever the solution, we will have to learn how to understand each other, without homogenizing into one way of expressing ourselves.

Another feature we want to share as we invite you to read it is that this book has wings. Each of us has worked on the writing process with a co-inquirer. Most of the co-inquirers entered the process through the meeting co-organized by Action Research + (AR+) at Chalmers University (Sweden) in March 2019. They contributed ten short chapters, inspired by the co-inquiry processes in each of the regions mentioned above. We have also invited thirteen additional authors to read the chapters and contribute with an experiential post about how it resonates with them in their own contexts. Together with co-inquirers, they give wings to ARTD because they take it to places that we could never have reached on our own.

The book writing process allowed us to learn collectively in relation to each other’s context. As authors and experience holders we tried to see ourselves in the place of the other, to understand what was particular in each territory. By doing so, we became companions in our respective journeys. That is what we mean when we say we used our wings to fly.

We now invite you to experiment with this multilingual book to continue finding wings for ARTD that will take it to places that we never even imagined.


Canto, P.; Franco, S. & Larrea, M. (2019). Embracing multilingualism to enhance complexity sensitive research. Impact of Social Sciences Blog. London School of Economics and Political Science, 2019/12/2.

Greenwood, D. & Levin, M. (2007). Introduction to Action Research – 2nd Edition, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Gustavsen, B. (1992). Dialogue and Development. Theory of Communication, Action Research and the Restructuring of Working Life. Assen: Van Gorcum.

Karlsen, J. & Larrea, M. (2014). Territorial Development and Action Research: Innovation Through Dialogue. Farnhman: Gower.

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