Appreciating and inquiring with refugees.

Amanda Gebhard and colleagues have published a new paper with ARJ on antiracist action researching with refugees in Canada.  Amanda shares what their antiracist approach using appreciative inquiry look like and writes…

“The methodological approach we articulate in this paper is based on a community-based study initiated during the Covid-19 pandemic. Our research team – Amanda Gebhard, Willow Samara Allen, and Fritz Pino – was contacted by a Canadian newcomer (“refugee”) settlement organization wishing to partner with us to examine the impacts that the pandemic was having for school settlement workers who provide services to newcomer, immigrant and refugee students and their families. 

In the beginning stages of our research, Appreciative inquiry felt like an excellent choice for our focus groups with settlement workers in schools. However, we realized the methodology did not fit well with our antiracist paradigm; while Ai is meant to uncover the positive core of an organization, we speculated how positivity as a focal point could silence counter-narratives and lived realities of participants, who were predominantly racialized individuals working in a resource-depleted education system during the pandemic. Following others who question the positivity aspect of Ai, we also wondered how Ai risked communicating to participants that they should focus on the positive, implying a need for individual responsibility, instead of systemic accountability for change.

In this article, we share our collective reflections on how an antiracist orientation shaped the ways in which we approached Ai throughout our study. We offer three specific discussion points: 1) researchers’ critical race consciousness as a requisite for appreciation, 2) revealing the positive core of an organization through a reframing of neoliberal understandings of positivity and happiness, and 3) the recognition of transnational knowledge as requisites for inquiry. We conclude with considerations for other researchers on the generative contributions of an Ai informed by an antiracist approach that engages in action-oriented research.

Citation: Gebhard, A., Allen, W. S., & Pino, F. (2023). Antiracism in appreciative inquiry: Generative tensions and collective reflexivity. Action Research. 

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Thanks for photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash.

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