The Ashridge Centre for Action Research (ACAR) was established in 2010 to create a practitioner-centred focus for action research and inquiry. Members of the centre work with a wide range of individuals and organisations.
Action research is grounded in the fundamental assumption that the best way to understand a situation is to participate in it. It is different from other forms of academic research because it does not try create objective, generalised findings. Instead it aims to help practitioners by solving problems, answering questions, developing new practices and creating new understanding.
Action research is often described as research with people, rather than on them. Action research projects are typically collaborative, combining both research and organisational development, with one type of intervention frequently leading to the other.
The aim of the centre is to draw out knowledge and support learning, to create a better understanding of the situation or problem being studied, and in the process to change it for the better.
The centre regularly partners with other Ashridge research centres and external clients. A number of Ashridge graduate programmes also incorporate action research and reflective action inquiry into the learning experience.
The action research team includes Ashridge faculty, associates and consultants, led by Gill Coleman. Ashridge faculty and associate researchers have worked on a number of projects including: Women's Entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia (Gill Coleman), Complex Projects (Sue Pritchard) and Artful Organisations.
We work with a diverse range of clients and issues; these have included working with a transportation company to involve train drivers in their own inquiry into improving safety, and working with the organisational development team of a strategic health authority to develop more meaning and impact in their work to improve the quality of patient care.
Members of the centre engage in a diverse range of activities, from supervising graduate students who are undertaking action research and action inquiry projects, to supporting consultants, managers and people acting as change-agents.
We share our learning by featuring projects in articles and studies and regularly publish our activities in academic and practitioner journals. Action research is also used in the Ashridge Masters in Sustainability and Responsibility.
Examples of action research PhD dissertations, and abstracts for some of the doctoral theses completed by participants in the Ashridge Doctorate in Organisational Change are available.
The Centre for Action Research runs regular events which are open to all alumni of our graduate courses, and also to anyone interested in sharing experiences or finding out more about action research.
Recent events have included a series of one-day practice based skills workshops covering core action research skills such as co-operative inquiry and stories of practice. See our events page to find out more.
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Action Centre for Action Research
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