Practicing action-research in the French context: a critical reflection of working relationships between researchers and local actors in a collaborative project on agroecology

Authors: Christophe Soulard*, INRA and Portland State University, Rixen Annabel, INRA, Pascale Scheromm, INRA
Topics: Social Geography, Social Theory, Agricultural Geography
Keywords: Action-research, food justice, peri-urban agriculture, partnership, engagement
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Grand Ballroom E, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

How researchers put into practice the principles of action-research can vary as a function of national socio-political contexts. In France, research has historically been marked by a strong emphasis on « neutrality » and a clear division between « researchers » and « practitioners ». Nevertheless, alternative streams in action and participatory research have emerged in diverse fields. We reflect on the way new types of relationships between researchers and local actors are constructed in French action-research today, taking as an example the on-going experience of the “ABEILLE project”. This project documents and accompanies peri-urban initiatives in agroecology in partnership with local actors. Over the course of a three-year research collaboration with a peri-urban municipality to facilitate a local organic farming intiative, ABEILLE researchers have adopted a multiplicity of roles: they function as experts, consultants, workshop leaders, network builders, and finally as active partners of the new municipal committee on agricultural and food development. We identify three important variables that define the cooperation: the roles to be played by researchers, the speed of advancement in the collaborative process, and the types of research products to be created and shared. As a trust relationship is gradually established on both sides, these three elements are continually challenged and re-defined. Effective action-research therefore requires a significant degree of « translation » between local actors’ priorities and researchers’ contributions. Such an experience addresses also the critical role that research might take to advance the inclusion of minor actors, the farmers in this case.

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