Ruth Balogh, Associate Senior Research Fellow Glasgow University, Lead Co-ordinator of the Collaborative Action Research Network (CARN), formerly Reader in Health Research & Practice Development University of Cumbria.
Inside the Big Tent of Action Research: reflections on the diversity of action research practice from the 2018 CARN and ARNA conferences
Since its beginnings in pre- and post- world war efforts to create a more just society through small-scale social action, action research has blossomed in a wide variety of quarters and settings across the globe.
The history of action research shows how the movement has continued to grow in this somewhat particularised pattern over the past 50 years. The careful thinking required to consider the epistemological and practical issues for action research within the constraints of different settings has largely taken place within their associated communities of practice.
Boundaries, however, are always porous, and action research has also maintained connections between the different developing traditions via its networks, journals and annual conferences. More recently, such boundaries have begun to dissolve yet further, so that we can now more readily talk about action research as taking place within a Big Tent – a term Professor Rowell introduced in the Palgrave Handbook.
Having had the privilege of taking part in two action research conferences this year – ARNA in June and CARN in October – I would like to share something of the range of action research practice that I’ve encountered in these two events to illustrate the many possibilities that exist for doing action research.
Ruth Balogh has been doing action research for more than 30 years and has been a member of the international Collaborative Action Research Network (CARN) Co-ordinating Group since 2002, becoming its lead Co-ordinator in 2013. Most of her work has been commissioned research. The agencies she has worked with have ranged from national agencies such as the former English regulatory body for nursing, midwifery & health visiting education, the NHS Management Executive and the Welsh Assembly Government, to less prestigious but equally important agencies such as local community health development projects. She has worked in almost every type of health setting, but her main interest has been in mental health and in supporting service users to have their voices heard over the quality of the services they receive.
In leading the CARN Co-ordinating Group she has overseen an action research project to develop CARN – with its 40 year history – into a position of improved digital presence and closer partnership with other international action research networks.
In parallel with her professional career, Ruth has also been an environmental activist, campaigning for the safe stewardship of nuclear waste and the promotion of renewable energy systems. Her work was recognised by Friends of the Earth, England Wales & Northern Ireland in 2017 with their annual Earthmover Award for exceptional campaigning.