Action Research Organisations across the World

We were inspired by international action research organisations from around the world, and continue to engage with international action research to strengthen our organisation. Our aim is to collaborate with foreign and international action research organisations for the advancement of MARNet.

Collaborative Action Research Network (CARN)

CARN was set up by John Elliott in 1976 in the United Kingdom as the Classroom Action Research Network to take forward internationally the ‘findings’ of the Ford Foundation–sponsored Teaching Project, a set of action research projects about the problems of implementing inquiry or discovery methods in classrooms. Deliberately setting out to move away from the ‘power-coercive’ role of academic research in education, the network aimed to provide a forum for the testing of ideas about teaching among peers.

It was initially based at the Centre for Applied Research in Education at the University of East Anglia and later at the Cambridge University Institute of Education (1972–75). This project’s precursor, the Humanities Curriculum Project (1967–72), led by Lawrence Stenhouse and sponsored by the UK Schools Council, was a defining influence. During the late 1980s, professionals, educators and practitioners from a wider range of disciplines (particularly in health and social services) became involved with the network, and after a vigorous debate, CARN changed its title from ‘Classroom’ to ‘Collaborative’ in order to reflect this.

CARN aims to encourage and support action research projects (personal, local, national and international), accessible accounts of action research projects, and contributions to the theory and methodology of action research.

Action Learning, Action Research Association (ALARA)

ALARA was formerly registered as the Action Learning Action Research and Process Management Association Inc. in 1991, following an inaugural Research Symposium in Brisbane in 1989 and a first World Congress, also in Brisbane, in 1990. The first local network was Brisbane ALARA in Queensland, and this remains a highly active powerhouse. It has generated numerous activities and fund-raisers. It is associated with Bob Dick’s AR-list service and AR website. Other networks have existed in Victoria, Singapore and South Africa.

The organisation established itself as the world’s earliest international action learning/action research professional association to mount World Congresses for this field, bringing together theorists and practitioners with novices, innovators and managers. Renamed Action Learning, Action Research Association Inc. in 2007, the Association has held ten World Congresses in Australian and International settings, and twenty-four Australasian conferences, as well as many other local workshops and seminars for members and their networks. 

Late in 2018, the organisation became a Company Limited by Guarantee, Action Learning, Action Research Association Ltd, and in 2020 registered the business name ALAR Association, registered under Australian Commonwealth legislation. The Association is colloquially known as ALARA. ALARA aims to promote by all available means the study, practice, research and teaching of Action Learning and Action Research in all their forms, and to bring together people who are interested in or involved with Action Learning and Action Research.

Action Research Network of the Americas (ARNA)

ARNA was initially organized in 2012 by five “network initiators” with a vision to support and promote a wide variety of forms of participatory research that would be shared to increase knowledge production, knowledge dissemination and knowledge democracy for critical, social, educational and environmental issues in the Americas and beyond.

ARNA unites college and university students and faculty conducting practitioner inquiry into teaching and learning with fellow action researchers in public schools, private schools, community settings and workplaces throughout the Americas. ARNA members are committed to taking action locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally to promote action research that is conducted with a commitment to honesty, integrity, inclusiveness, multi-vocality, engagement, and achievement within sustainable democratic societies.

The mission of the Action Research Network of the Americas (ARNA) is to provide a collegial, practice-oriented, and professional development space where practitioners and students of action research across the Americas can come together to share ideas and develop initiatives that will strengthen the position of action and participatory research around the globe.

Network for Educational Action Research in Ireland (NEARI)

NEARI was initiated by four teachers in Ireland, who have undertaken research into their practice. They believe, like Russell (1932) and Dewey (1966), in the importance of education as a lifelong process that has the capacity to confer on participants liberatory and life-enhancing experiences. They also believe that the articulation of our living theories (Whitehead, 1989) that have emerged from our action research investigations into our workplace practices can have implications for other practitioners who choose to engage in self-study.

NEARI is a network for action researchers who are new to action research, as well as those who are working on action research projects, along with some who are life-long action researchers. NEARI is an independent, unfunded and non-affiliated network for practitioners at all levels of education, and it aims towards developing action research scholarship and practice.

NEARI supports people to reflect critically on their work. It encourages people to look to the educational values that underpin their practice and to work towards living these values in their practice so as to enhance it. NEARI is for all educational action researchers, whether beginners or lifelong researchers. It is a platform for sharing research stories and provides opportunities for personal and critical engagement as well as for resource sharing; it links action researchers within Ireland and with the broader global action research communities.

New Zealand Centre for Action Research Network (NZCARN)

NZCARN was established in 2009 during Bridget Somekh’s visit to New Zealand; as a Visiting Canterbury Fellow at the University of Canterbury. She has stimulated a movement to establish a regional CARN network in New Zealand, similar to the CARN networks based in Spain-Latin America, and the Netherlands. There was a lot of ongoing action research in New Zealand. Bridget has made contacts with colleagues leading action research work at the Universities of Otago, Waikato, Victoria and the New Zealand Action Research and Review Centre (NZARRC) at Unitec.

The NZCARN aims to foster and enhance collaborative action research in New Zealand; to promote and disseminate practitioner action research; to renew, and extend, relationships with the international action research community through Centre for Action Research (CARN); and hence to enhance New Zealand’s presence internationally and increase opportunities for collaborative international projects.

The NZCARN is now a Special Interest Group (SIG) of the New Zealand Association for Research in Education. They intend to encourage and expand networks of academics, postgraduate students and practitioners with interest in action research. It is intended for those with interest in Action Research, Critical Action Research, Practitioner Action Research and Appreciative Inquiry.

Japan Association of Action Research (JAAR)

JAAR was established on 9 November, 2003 as an organisation that advocates for action research based on a Soft Systems Methodology (SSM). SSM is an approach to organisational process modelling, originally developed by scholars at the Lancaster University Systems Department in the United Kingdom. The Japan Action Research Association prospectus was signed at the inauguration ceremony to bring together people who shared a passion for SSM-based action research and to adapt its philosophy to a new generation as a way of promoting change. By encouraging members to share individual thoughts and to be inspired by each other, JAAR aims to make the best use of each position and to promote activities that enable a deeper exploration of research, education, and action research practice. In line with the purpose of its establishment, the association divides the field of activity into three divisions: research, education, and practice.

Soft Systems Methodology

Soft Systems Methodology attempts to foster learning and appreciation of the problem situation between a group of stakeholders rather than set out to solve a pre-defined problem. The complexity of many organisational/social problem situations defeats attempts at defining a problem: in many such situations the problem is ‘what is the problem?’. SSM provides a framework for tackling such situations.

There are two main modes within SSM, real-world activities and systems thinking about the real world. Initial work involves interviews and meetings to gain an understanding of the problem situation, which is represented by the use of ‘rich pictures’. Systems thinking uses concepts of hierarchy, communication, control, and emergent properties to identify ‘relevant systems’ which may provide useful insights.

These relevant systems are logically defined by constructing ‘root definitions’ which are then used to generate ‘conceptual models’ of the selected systems. Different conceptual models representing different viewpoints are then used as the basis of a debate, which through an ‘appreciative process’ can lead to feasible and desirable change and then to action. Soft Systems Methodology has been developed over twenty years by Peter Checkland of the Department of Systems at Lancaster University, and others.