Action learning in a transitional labour market program: challenges and possibilities

Year: 2013

Author: Harrison, Lyn

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper presents some of the challenges and learning outcomes, both organizational and interpersonal, in an ARC Linkage funded Action Research project with a large National Community Service Organisation. Action research methodologies draw on Lewin's (1946) collaborative action research ‘spiral' of planning, acting, observing and evaluating and these stages establish an explicit, direct link between theory and action so that the process of inquiry contributes ‘directly to the flourishing of...persons, and their communities' (Coghlan and Brannick 2005, p.14). The most productive form of action research is one in which those who are involved have a responsibility for implementing the results of their learning (Heron and Reason (2001, Mumford 1997).Participatory collaboration at the beginning of the project involved the Chief Investigators, the Research Fellow, the Partner Investigators, senior Transitional Labour Market Program staff, and staff from Mission Australia in a structured Action Research Group (ARG), which evidenced quite complex interpersonal relationships and different and sometimes incompatible investments. A number of key themes (philosophical, strategic and operational) are introduced which became important organisers for our thinking about processes and outcomes throughout 2012 and 2013.It is clear that what started off as a flat organizational structure, intended to accommodate multiple voices and democratic decision making, has now morphed into a more conventional hierarchical structure. The reasons for this and the consequences, both real and imagined are the subject of discussion in this presentation.