The ‘AR+ Transformations Gathering’ that took place between March 7 and 10, at Chalmers, brought together over 60 of the most prominent action researchers, consultants, and activists involved with critical issues in healthcare, development and environment among other areas.
Engaging in group talks and collective activities, the participants broadened the dialogue on participative approaches to problem solving and gathered new skills on developing collaborative work. In addition to the interdisciplinary aspect, multiculturality also characterized the networking gathering, which counted with experts from 25 different countries.
“Why not bring the world into Chalmers and Chalmers into the world?”, commented Chalmers 2018 jubilee professor and one of the event organizers, Hilary Bradbury, on the reach of the ‘AR+ Transformations Gathering’.
The gathering, which was also designed in partnership with the Centre for Healthcare Improvement (CHI) – a research center at Chalmers, aimed at advancing a new way of conducting research and enabling transformative actions in collaboration with key players.
“It goes beyond understanding and describing problems. Action research entails working with people, sharing ideas and furthering transformations together”, Professor Bradbury explains. According to her, the action research paradigm proposes an innovative shift in the conventional academic method of doing research, insofar as it invites researchers to combine science with hands-on experiences that involve stakeholders directly in knowledge co-creation.
“It is about relationship and partnership”, added Steve Waddell, lead of the Sustainable Development Goals Transformations Forum and one of the thinking partners for the event. Steve claimed that today's pressing challenges require a more relational approach and action research is therefore the way forward.
Andreas Hellström, Scientific Director of the Centre for Healthcare Improvement and Senior Lecturer at Chalmers, highlights that the gathering enabled participants to share experiences and learn new practices that integrate academic and practical output. “It was a great opportunity to gather new skills and knowledge from the action research community and get inspired by others”, said Andreas. For him, broadening perspectives on action research is essential and can improve responses to healthcare challenges, making it more sustainable.
For the future, Andreas looks forward to creating synergy among practicing action researchers worldwide, “I hope we stay connected in this new global community and work together in future projects".
Fika-concept aligned with action research
The innovative character of action research also reflected in the theme of the conference. During the day, the participants did not have seminars to attend, but rather joined several sessions fuelled by coffee and conversations.
The Swedish tradition ‘fika’ inspired the design of the ‘AR+ Transformation Gathering’. “When I experienced ‘fika’ during my Jubilee stays, I thought 'let's bring the spirit of fika to this gathering?' This practice feels aligned with action research since it allows everyone to have their voices heard”, said Professor Hilary Bradbury.
The informal tone of the meeting pleased the participants and proved to be productive. “The unstructured quality of the conference allowed us to really connect to each other and understand how others experience action research in their work fields”, said Miren Larrea, Senior researcher at Orkestra Basque Institute of Competitiveness and Lecturer at the University of Deusto. For Miren, who has been developing action research approach for territorial development since 2008, the space at Veras Gräsmatta also suited the gathering, “The space was well chosen. It enabled us to easily move around and network”.
Coleen Vogel, Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, a Nobel prize recipient for her work with the IPCC, and one of the leading action researchers on climate change adds that the event's design also increased the participant's engagement. “Besides facilitating connections, this model opens up space for creativity and the development of new ideas”.