Pathways to Co-Impact: Action Research and Community Organising

From Section:
Research Methods
Sep. 03, 2017
September, 2017

Source: Educational Action Research, Volume 25, Issue 4, 2017
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This paper introduces the concept of ‘co-impact’ to characterise the complex and dynamic process of social and economic change generated by participatory action research (PAR).
The authors developed a conceptual framework, based on a threefold distinction between ‘participatory’, ‘collaborative’ and ‘collective’ impact. They apply this framework to a case study action research project, Debt on Teesside, working with low-income households in North East England. They aimed to show what kinds of individual, organizational and social changes were generated in this particular case, and what conceptual framework might be useful for organising and understanding co-impact.

Twenty four households participated in this project, of which 16 engaged in follow-up mentoring sessions. The authors utilised data collected by the project about the changing nature of the participating households’ finances; evaluation of the mentoring scheme; and records of Advisory Group meetings, workshops with households, public assemblies, dialogue and dissemination events. Finally, the authors conducted on two sets of semi-structured interviews with the participants and their mentors.

The authors analyzed the project in terms of: participatory impact, which included developing skills of participating households, mentor-researchers and university staff; collaborative impact, which included findings-based changes in thinking, policies and practices of advice, community finance and housing agencies and local authorities resulting from collaborative research; and ‘collective impact’, adapted from the field of social interventions, which involves organisations collectively targeting specific actions based on research.

Finally, the authors have highlighted the usefulness of the concept of ‘collective impact’ for PAR, which is particularly relevant in the case of Debt on Teesside as a community organising-based action research project, but is also relevant to other action research projects. They argue that translating the concept into a PAR context requires a greater degree of power-sharing and commitment to respecting diversity.

Updated: Oct. 11, 2021
Action research | Collaborative action research | Communities | Participatory research