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Action research: in search of overcoming extractivist models of development in Latin America

Cooperative inquiry that involved academics, activists and representatives of civil society from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia


As a partial prerequisite for obtaining a master's degree in "Power,

Participation and Social Change" at the Institute of Development Studies - University of Sussex, I carried out a cooperative inquiry with the intention of generating collaboration between researchers, activists and civil society representatives involved with the socio-environmental impacts of mining projects in Latin America.

Throughout dialogue meetings, we explored the differences and similarities in strategies for influencing decision-making on mining projects and their impact in our home countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia).

I was the initiating researcher, and my initiative to carry out the research around this topic was guided by my own pursuit to understand my best contributions to transforming a context that is familiar to me, having been born in Minas Gerais, Brazil: the unequal distribution of the benefits the negative impacts of mining.


Action research is a process of investigation and transformation of reality carried out by the people themselves - or in close collaboration with people - who experience a certain context that is to be understood and transformed. It is not a single method, but a family or practices that share the intention of creating “participative communities of inquiry in which qualities of engagement, curiosity and question posing are brought to bear on significant practical issue” (Reason & Bradbury-Huang, 2007, p. 1) to the ones involved.

Co-operative enquiry is an approach within the family of action research in which people agree to engage in mutual enquiry on a subject they share interests and concerns. Participants are seen simultaneously as co-researchers and subjects investigating their own reality, while at the same time visualising possibilities for causing the impact they would like to have on it (Heron & Reason, 2001). Thus, "the research is done by people with each other, not by researchers on other people or about them" (Heron & Reason, 1997, p. 284).

Cooperative research is a dialogical process (Burns et al., 2022). The methods applied in our dialogue sessions included alternating between smaller and larger group reflections, storytelling and collective harvesting. Between meetings, I had one-to-one conversations with co-researchers, shared content about action research and systematised notes from our workshops, as well as continuing to do documentary research on both the content and the process.


April to August 2022


Researcher: Bruna Viana

Supervisor: Alex Shankland


Burns, D., Howard, J., & Ospina, S. M. (2022). The SAGE Handbook of Participatory Research

Reason, P., & Bradbury-Huang, H. (2007). Introduction. In The SAGE Handbook of Action Research : Participative Inquiry and Practice (pp. 1–10). SAGE Publications.

Heron, J., & Reason, P. (1997). A Participatory Inquiry Paradigm. Qualitative Inquiry, 3(3),


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