Participatory Research and Community Organizing

Changing economic and political relations, based on the ownership and control of information technologies and communication, raise important questions for community organizing in an increasingly privatized, postindustrial world of a knowledge society: Who produces knowledge and for whose interests? What are the implications of a changing economic and social order for the relatively powerless? Who are the have-nots in the knowledge society, and how do they organize against the new elements of oppression the knowledge society brings? Today’s challenges call for rethinking of knowledge production in community organizing. Instead of conceptualizing research as detached discovery and empirical verification of generalizable patterns in community practice, social researchers need to view research as a site of resistance and struggle. Hence, a major focus of this paper is to explore research methodologies by which social researchers and community practitioners can mobilize information and knowledge resources, as one part of their broader strategies for community empowerment. I begin by briefly summarizing the political economy of the new postindustrial society and the role of knowledge elite. This analysis is linked to the emergence of participatory research movements. I argue that the participatory approach to community research offers an epistemology and methodology that addresses people, power and praxis in the post-industrial, information-based society. To illustrate this, I describe how a participatory research project is carried out in community practice, articulating key moments and roles of the researcher and participants. I conclude with the reconfiguration of validity in social work research.



About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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