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Action Research for Sustainable Development in a Turbulent World

Action Research for Sustainable Development in a Turbulent World.


Ortrun Zuber-Skerritt, Griffith University, Australia


This book has been conceived by eight long-time action researchers/elders and written by them and four of their mentees after celebrating 20 years of action learning and action research (ALAR) at the Eighth World Congress on ALAR in Melbourne in September 2010. The congress theme was: “Appreciating our diverse pasts, comprehending our complex presents, prefiguring our possible futures”.   Jointly these elders have an impressive record of publications. In this book they reflect on their rich experience of ALAR congresses and conferences, on their practical and theoretical work, and on their stories and conclusions at the end of two decades. Here they contextualise these reflections in the light of global developments in this increasingly troubled 21st century marked by greater complexity through globalisation, neo-liberalism, climate change and other sources of practical and ideological change. We argue that in this new era, action learning, action research and action leadership are appropriate methodologies for resolving complex problems of personal, professional, organisational and community development and sustainability.


Ortrun Zuber-Skerritt and the contributors to this volume offer us both generative theoretical frameworks and concrete strategies for using action research and related practices to address issues of environmental, economic and social sustainability. Recognizing that creating a ‘sustainable global society’ requires collaboration and innovation, the authors draw upon their many years of experience and their diversity of perspectives to provide a rich resource – not just to readers of action research but to all who are interested in finding more productive ways to achieve and sustain positive social and environmental change.

Mary Brydon-Miller, PhD, Director, Action Research Center, and Professor, Educational Studies and Urban Educational Leadership, College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services, University of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

With ‘Action Research for Sustainable Development in a Turbulent World’, Zuber-Skerritt reminds us why she is regarded as the custodian of all things 'Action'. In her normal participatory manner, this latest book reports on action research and theories that can be repeated, adopted or adapted by researchers anywhere. The theme of participatory action research for sustainable problem solving unfolds in each of the chapters, culminating in a robust book that belongs on the shelf of every serious 'qualitative researcher.'

This book shows how participatory action learning, action research and action leadership can be used as appropriate methodologies in complex situations where collective and sustainable solutions are called for. Zuber-Skerritt risks criticism for simplifying complex concepts in the introductory chapter of this book, however, this approach is commended and welcomed, as it provides all readers (experienced qualitative researchers and otherwise), with a solid point of departure.

A must-read book for all action researchers!

Linda van Ryneveld, PhD, Director, Curriculum Development and Support, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa

Book Information

ISBN Print: 9781780525488
Publication Date: 07 March 2012
Format print: Hardback
Imprint: Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Page count: 250
Dimensions: 156 x 234
Audience: Professional & Vocational

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This book is articulate, clear, (r)evolutionary and most of all, motivating. Articulating what is wrong with the technocratic and managerial approaches that underpin the dominant paradigm, the analysis in these chapters creates a yearning for change, matched by calls for action and valuable directions to websites. Many of my concerns and frustrations as a ‘development aid professional’ who has observed disfunctionality in governments and organizations in many countries are articulated thoughtfully in these chapters. This book has reawakened me to AR after eight years away, and has motivated me to look for opportunities for AR within my small sphere of influence in the international development scene. I applaud the work of the elders and action professionals who have brought the field so far in the last decade, as reflected in this timely volume.

Frank Thompson, PhD, First Secretary (Partnerships), AusAID, Pretoria, South Africa


Zuber-Skerritt’s superb edited collection makes a persuasive case for the value of action research (AR) in confronting contemporary conditions related to sustainability. Wonderfully accessible and thoughtful, these essays will be of value to those new to action research and those with years of experience.

Davydd J. Greenwood, PhD, Professor of Anthropology, Cornell University, USA



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