Up-scaling action research and implications for community organizing practice

Post Academic researchers often fail to fully comprehend the scope of and causes behind challenges experienced in low-income neighborhoods unless they engage in action research (AR), where relationships built over time allows for research questions to emerge that combines local-knowledge with academics’ knowledge.

Through an AR partnership in a Charlotte, North Carolina neighborhood, we had the opportunity to work closely with residents who helped us uncover the most relevant questions to ask. These questions were later “up-scaled” to reveal structural issues at work on a larger scale within this and similar communities, leading to a greater understanding of the scale of the problems we were witnessing.

We define “up-scaling” as an expanded research model (illustrated in the figure above) that contributes to knowledge building through findings generalizable beyond the original AR implementation site. We illustrate how local knowledge was important not just for action in the immediate AR setting, but had implications for uncovering systemic policy-level issues related to environmental justice, absentee landlords, and neighborhood resilience.

We started out by listening to residents for over four years (while implementing small neighborhood improvement projects together) who were most impacted by a development process that resulted in a neighborhood “built to fail.”

Our AR findings provided a research- and evidence-based platform from which to advocate for neighborhood change, and the motivation for extended research at the regional scale. We clearly document the investigative processes and conclusions in sufficient enough detail for other action researchers to evaluate and learn from.

Blog post by Melissa A Currie

We invite you to learn more about this experience by reading our article HERE. Free 30-day access is available for this article beginning 17 May, 2017.
After you’ve had a chance to read this piece, please share your thoughts, ideas, or experiences with our community in the comments below so we can continue this discussion!

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