Reciprocity, Relationship, and Covenantal Ethics – Mary Brydon-Miller

In their article, “Reciprocity:  An Ethic for Community-based Participatory Action Research”, authors Sarah Maiter, Laura Simich, Nora Jacobson, and Julie Wise define reciprocity as “an ongoing process of exchange with the aim of establishing and maintaining equality between parties” and explore how this notion might inform our understanding of the ethical implications of community-based participatory action research.
This concept of reciprocity relates closely to the idea of community covenantal ethics that I’ve been exploring in some of my own recent work.  I first came across the concept of covenantal ethics in the work of my friend Anne Inga Hilsen (include link to Arj, 4(1), 23-36) in which she cites the work of William May, a physician whose book, The Physician’s Covenant lays out some basic principles of covenantal ethics.  Anne Inga describes how this informs her work as an action researcher, “I suggest that AR can also be seen as a covenant between the researchers and the local participants.  Instead of doing good to serve my own needs or act as rational contractual action, I will argue that AR, from my position, can be seen as entering into a covenant with the local participants” (2006, 27-28). 
This covenant is founded in the notions of reciprocity and relationship.  In their article, Maiter and her colleagues provide a very clear and complete discussion of how they designed and carried out a community-based participatory action research project designed to examine the issue of mental health care among diverse communities in Ontario, Canada. At the same time, they also help to deepen our thinking of the ethical implications of our work as action researchers
Brydon-Miller, M. (2009).  Covenantal ethics and action research:  Exploring a common foundation for social research.  In D. Mertens & P. Ginsberg (Eds.), The Handbook of Social Research Ethics (pp. 243-258).  Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.
May, W. F. (2000).  The physician’s covenant:  Images of the healer in medical ethics (2nd ed.).  Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox Press.