Linking PAR with mainstream organizational studies

Here is a link to an academic article I wrote with Tom Lawrence exploring how PAR might inform institutional theory, a dominant perspective in organizational studies.

Here is the abstract:

Institutional theory has energized a large and vibrant academic community, but it is largely unknown to managers and inconsequential with respect to the management of organizations. This is despite what the authors believe is an immense potential practical contribution. In this article, the authors suggest that institutional theory needs a gap year—a period in which core frameworks and insights from an institutional perspective are brought into contact with complex social problems. The authors focus on the study of institutional work and argue that an extended encounter with the world of participatory action research could lead to new answers to key questions and energize the development of institutional theory as both an academic and a practical project.

Contact me if you have any difficulties in accessing the PDF.




Tyranical participation: The need for an institutional perspective

In a recent post I explored some criticisms of PAR by those with a positivistic standpoint.  In this post I examine some of the criticisms of participatory approaches as experienced in the field of development.  Bill Cooke and Uma Kothari* argue that, in this field, there has been an inexorable spread of participation as an approach that has produced tyrannical effects resulting in illegitimate and unjust exercises in power. Continue reading

PAR & Organizations

iStock_000003565068XSmall A quick scan of the resources on PAR shows that it is applied in a wide variety of settings from large-scale community projects to small teams working in an organization. How the setting interacts with the goals and actions of a PAR project is explored by Jenny Cameron*. She proposes that the relationship of a PAR project to an organization influences its key characteristics and its particular challenges.

Cameron puts forward three types of PAR:

  1. PAR focused on challenging organizations;
  2. PAR conducted for organizations;
  3. PAR conducted with organizations.

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PAR in Organizations: A Small Business study

I am fascinated in exploring how PAR might be applied within organizations and outside its traditional domains of development, education and health. What does PAR look like within, for example, a business? One example is seen in the work of Chris Street and Darren Meister* who used PAR in helping a small business manage change.

Continue reading