Okay, yes, the name is ridiculous. But I think there’s something in this idea. I want to mashup Participatory Action Research (PAR) and a Connectivist MOOC (cMOOC). I have a few topics in mind, but the organizing idea is actually most important to me at this point. The fact that it could be called a “PARC MOOC” makes me think of getting out, being outside, being with others in public, and I think that’s good imagery to start with.
I see Participatory Action Research as a methodology that has ethical implications for research practice. Ethically, it shifts social research from being about other people to research as an everyday practice we do with other people to change the political, social, cultural, and economic circumstances of our lives. It’s not empowering, it’s offering tools to be self-determining. There’s tons of writing that supports this shift on the grounds that it is a kind of research that really respects people. I also added the phrase “everyday practice”, because I think in the world we live in (especially in the West) requires research to skillfully and effectively navigate it. I agree with Arjun Appadurai’s assertion that research can no longer be considered a skill that scholars gain over time, but a right to which we all have access (See Appadurai – the Right to Research). Continue reading
Rather than engagement, which evokes a sense that we are focusing on something static, completed, or defined, my experience in community work has centered around engaging – an ongoing and fluid process of engagement. In my experience, engaging involves a process of defying social expectations in ways that provide real space for connection. This can happen in coffee shops, community centers, or lecture halls. I notice it with a particular barista at a favorite coffee shop who asks, ―”What are you doing today?” rather than ―”How are you?” This change of question invokes a profoundly different interaction. Engaging comes in many forms. After a violent shooting at a community center in which I was working, a young person who had prior barely spoken a word to me for months asked if I was scared. Answering ―”yes” was engaging, taking a stand of my own (rather than the stand I was expected to take) and revealing my own weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Opportunities to engage are everywhere, with people of all kinds, in any context. While these opportunities may be planned, engaging is an active choice, made in the moment, to be vulnerable and open.
I believe that community is constituted through stories. Four stories about my understanding community:
Community – an attitude and orientation: Framed by cubicle walls and the front desk, the office I work in looks similar to any other at a university. What makes it a community is its residents’ attitudes. Every staff member is woven together, mutually indebted through help offered, requested, and received. Abundance, not scarcity— of time, energy, and compassion—is the operating default.
Community – a ritual and practice: Every Sunday morning, my housemate and I made breakfast and baked bread to share. This ritual allowed space and time to deepen our relationship. It also became an open invitation to welcome others into our space.
Community – an organization of inclusion and exclusion: All communities have boundaries, but some invite while others exclude. A good community is sustainable in the face of movement, but through openness, grows kinder, broader, and more compassionate.
Community – a location and place: Living on a farm, I experienced community of location: our lives centered around the land. Also a place: as a teenager learning to write creatively, my closest community was a message board that provided a welcoming, supportive place for growth.