Action Research approaches are widely used by international development NGOs, with anecdotal evidence suggesting that they are becoming increasingly popular. However, we still know remarkably little about where, how, and why international development NGOs use Action Research. Within the existing academic literature, there is no consistent analysis of the use of Action Research approaches in international development, despite the fact that Action Research is closely associated with well-known methods and renowned thinkers within development studies. The practical experiences of development NGOs in using the approaches likewise do not feature very highly. This raises questions about whether Action Research is being used appropriately and well, and what collectively international development NGOs could contribute towards the theory and further development of Action Research approaches.
To take a small step towards addressing this gap, and to encourage the broader sharing of experiences of using Action Research in international development, this paper provides an introduction to the debate. It explores Action Research approaches in greater depth and looks at some of the possible and existing applications by international development NGOs. It then discusses some of the practical challenges NGOs face when using these approaches and issues surrounding the quality and rigor of Action Research. Finally, it asks critical questions about the use of Action Research approaches by international development NGOs with a view to stimulating further discussion and reflection on this issue.
Briefing Paper 32: Where, how, and why are Action Research approaches used by international development non-governmental organisations?