Connecting Transdisciplinarity and Action Research by Roderick Lawrence.

Interrelations between action research and transdisciplinarity provide co-benefits that should be more widely recognized. Connections can account for combinations of several types of knowledge, know-how and other ways of knowing, and all are needed to respond effectively to societal challenges in precise situations as explained in a recent book.

Action Research (AR+) and Transdisciplinarity (TD) share common ground. Both encourage convergence and collaboration; both aim to generate theoretical advances grounded in practical experience. They also use a variety of methods that enable competences to grow when defining how to change a situation or persistent problem. TD extends beyond interdisciplinary research by including extra scientific knowledge, professional know-how, and other ways of knowing in communities. TD explicitly confronts plurality of knowing in a heterogenous world of facts and values. Complexity, diversity and emergence are accommodated using multiple methods and tools that create bridges between different meanings, perceptions, values, and worldviews. TD can facilitate agreements that enable a shared understanding of complex situations and the resources needed to change it. Transdisciplinary contributions are not necessarily led by researchers or public administrators: Many community-led projects have been successful in providing affordable housing by collective and cooperative initiatives; growing local food produce is common in an increasing number of cities north and south of the Equator; and environmental, energy and health consequences of road traffic have been challenged and redefined by local communities.

‘Creating Built Environments: Bridging Knowledge and Practice Divides’ (Routledge, 2021) explains and illustrates with numerous examples how community-based projects bridge knowledge and practice divides. These projects create innovative responses for healthy food, affordable housing, active living and mobility, and other components of human habitats, that influence our health and sustainability both locally and globally.

Hopefully, this book is not interpreted only as a prescription for change. It describes and presents many novel cases of incremental and radical change implemented by human creativity of collective actions. Whether these cases and others become beacons for change will depend on numerous variables, not least the ethical and moral responsibility of all. Will the book be a catalyst for both incremental and radical societal change that nurtures, protects and sustains planetary health and human well-being in a rapidly urbanizing world? The next step is yours.

Further reading

Lawrence, R. (2021). Creating Built Environments: Bridging knowledge and practice divides. London & New York; Routledge.
Lawrence; R. (2020). Collective and creative consortia: combining knowledge, ways of knowing and praxis, Cities & Health, 4 (2): 237-249.

Further reading on Scaffolding Transdisciplinary Projects