Recently I had the privilege of attending the ALARA World Congress in South Africa. I had previously attended the 2003 event there – the only two times ALARA has been in Africa during its history. The 2003 event was bigger than this year’s, by about 100 people, and much more multi-cultural but this year’s was still a great event and well worth attending.
It was inspiring attending presentations by diverse practitioners, not all from education by any means, and to hear how they are carrying out hopeful work in sometimes seemingly-hopeless situations. It was also most encouraging noting the respectful relationships between various ethnic groups in the new South Africa, against a background historically of this definitely not being the case.
Over and over again, I heard newcomers from Africa, Europe and other countries remark on a feeling of ‘coming home’ at ALARA even if they had never been to an ALARA conference before. I think action research frequently has this effect on people, as I have just written in the editorial to the latest version of the EJOLTS journal (see http://ejolts.net/node/257 ). Those of us who are intent on investigating and improving our own practice in the best ways we know how, tend to recognise the same tendency in other practitioners, and this is what causes the feeling of ‘coming home’.
We hope that those reading this blog might also consider getting themselves onto the mailing list of NEARI, the Network for Educational Action Research in Ireland. Our next event, at DCU in Dublin on January 16, will feature Prof. Jack Whitehead, well known writer in the field of action research, who will be helping us to investigate the ‘messiness’ of action research. Jack is so keen to connect with educators and other practitioners around the world that he’s been encouraging ‘multi-skype connections’ among action research groups in places as diverse as Africa, India, the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland. A group of us at the World Congress, under the able facilitation of Sonia Hutchinson from the UK, linked in to Albania, South Africa, India, Canada and the UK during one of our workshops. We were able to share insights and ideas also as part of this, with some Collaborative Action Research Network (CARN) attendees who were present at their conference in Portugal. Our world knows no boundaries, and we can connect and share internationally. We hope you’ll join us!
Pip Bruce Ferguson
If you want to see the work that I presented (on behalf of peers) at South Africa, you can access these from http://fergs.org/pip/
Papers and presentations from the World Congress can be accessed from ALARA http://alarassociation.org/pages/events/alara-world-congress-2015