Lonnie Rowell, Ph.D., is a retired professor of counseling and is President of Social Publishers’ Foundation (SPF), a web-based platform established to disseminate practitioner research globally and to support novice practitioner researchers in designing, carrying out, writing, and publishing their work in an open source space. Lonnie has been an educator for 50+ years including 23 years at the University of San Diego. He directed one of the first student-organized Experimental Colleges in California from 1968- 1970. He then became School Director of the first experimental alternative school in San Diego, California. He went on to become a youth counselor. The collaborative action research model he created for school counseling has been widely cited in the counseling literature. In developing the model he supervised and consulted on more than 160 action research projects with graduate students and counseling practitioners. Working with his students, he established and co-directed the San Diego Action Research Conference, a leading event for action researchers in North America from 2004-2012. He served as Program Chair (2012-2014) for the Action Research Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). Lonnie subsequently co-founded the Action Research Network of the Americas (ARNA) and served as Founding Chair from 2013-2015. He was Co-Chair of the 2017 ARNA Conference and 1 st Global Assembly for Knowledge Democracy in Cartagena, Colombia. Lonnie now coordinates ARNA’s knowledge democracy initiative. He is an Editor for Educational Action Research and most recently co-edited a two-part Special Issue on Knowledge Democracy. He is the lead editor of the Palgrave International Handbook of Action Research (2017), which includes contributions from more than 80 authors from every continent.
Dr. Rowell will address the role of action research in the current global crisis. He will discuss two roles for the action research community in the coming decades. First, the role of democratizing knowledge as a basis for public discourse and public policy; Second, the role of assisting in the shaping of a progressive political agenda that is inclusive and humanistic. At present, the role of action research in relation to collapsing confidence in liberal democracy, the existential threat of climate change, and the combined toxic brew of a rising authoritarian populism and a breakdown of trust in all things public is fragmented. Although determined participatory research initiatives related to these crisis elements can be found around the globe, the global action research community to date has had difficulty finding its collective voice in relation to the setting of priorities for activist-scholarship and engagement with participatory initiatives grounded in critical analyses and planning for a progressive political agenda. While the two leading academic journals in the field have produced special issues addressing components of the crisis (Action Research’s special issue on climate change; Educational Action Research’s special issue on knowledge democracy), there is little evidence of shared and democratically initiated dialogue among action research networks regarding how best to build solidarities in ways that maximize the action research community’s contribution to facing the global crisis.
The talk will emphasize the importance of consciousness-raising as a way to revitalize civic literacy. Action research often has been at the forefront of recognition that domination of discourse and policy by “expert” consultants or researchers can be damaging to civil society. In this context, civic illiteracy is bred by drumming into people’s hearts and minds the false consciousness that they cannot “do anything” regarding their feeling of dis-ease about the conditions around them and the forces that seem to produce those conditions. Breaking the cycle of false consciousness requires consciousness-raising, an experience at the intersections of thinking and feeling, planning and co-constructing. The priorities for developing this role in action research communities requires projects that are participatory and dialogical and that connect analysis and action with group and self-reflection
Lastly, Dr. Rowell considers the “pulse” of activism in the global action research community in relation to its potential to help shape an inclusive and humanistic progressive political agenda. He proposes that cutting ties to the more technocratic orientations towards action research that have emerged in the context of neo-liberalism, developing new linkages with progressive initiatives, and assisting with the creation of new approaches to knowledge dissemination and knowledge mobilization are essential elements in revitalizing the spirit of those who first created action research.
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