Action research is a powerful problem-solving approach that engages both researcher and the target community in working together to resolve everyday problems. The fundamental intention of action research is to engage people who are directly/indirectly impacted by a specific problem to participate in solving the problem while giving them the tools, strategies and education they need to initiate change in businesses, organizations, industry sectors, and regional communities. Inquiries of Discovery Centre for Entrepreneurship Inc. are designed to involve and empower members of the community to co-create strategies that inspire systemic change.
We believe simple language and a conversational approach to action research is a highly motivating methodology that holds greater appeal to participants from all walks of life than traditional quantitative research methods, which have failed to produce tangible results and the systemic changes people desire. By engaging the people who have been impacted by specific problems in important conversations, participants in our action research projects engage in formulating solutions to problems they confront in their communities and workplaces every day.
Since 1998 findings from our action research projects have revealed gaps in skills, knowledge, and under-utilized resources, and have inspired greater awareness of individual and collective development potential among participants. Similarly, the data have illuminated unmet wants and needs of people from all levels of organizational hierarchies and walks of life.
Our community-supported action plans and implementation strategies, the outcome of our work, enable business owners, local service providers, educators, and economic development commissions to address workforce development issues in new and different ways. This is possible because action research helps people to understand the “how” of things, rather than the “what” of the circumstances that citizens and community leaders are trying to change. Everyone wins when influencers and decision-makers are better equipped to resolve problems and improve labour market connectivity from a variety of perspectives.
In addition to being highly interactive, action research is an iterative methodology consisting of spiraling learning loops. Each loop involves looking, acting, and thinking. Data are collected during the look phase, where the topic is thoughtfully described and defined. The think phase involves the analysis and interpretation of the information gathered. It is the act phase that gives rise to the Discovery Centre for Entrepreneurship’s recommendations, reporting, implementation, and evaluation. Recommendations and results are routinely tested in a subsequent learning loop we call the Wisdom of Risk. The Wisdom of Risk is a dynamic approach to rapid prototyping: action, feedback, correction. The scope of our projects fulfill a minimum of one learning loop.
Action research is an investigative process by which knowledge is expanded in a systematic way. We are particularly interested in the lived experiences of people who suffer deep-seated feelings of frustration. Knowledge gained through mixed research methods gradually expand the social consciousness, enhance connectivity within communities, and reveal new systems and structures to empower entrepreneurs, business leaders, economic developers, educators, and current and future generations of workers to construct strength-based workplaces and value-centric economies.
Participants in our research inquiries come from all walks of life. Successful entrepreneurs and business owners who have created employment opportunities for others are often the subject of our research. We frequently form research advisory teams for specific projects, and include local service providers and young entrepreneurs in our investigations. Each person’s participation is discretionary and voluntary. We honour each individual’s decision-making autonomy through clear and open communications. Invitations to participate typically clarify the intention of the research; explained what the conversation is about; and specify relevant dates, times, and locations of our proposed activity; and addresses the issue of confidentiality.
We use consent forms to enable participants to communicate their understanding of the issues, affirm their desire to contribute through active participation, and register their agreement to have the deliberations recorded, transcribed, and ultimately be published. The subject of informed consent is revisited at the commencement of each data-gathering conversation we initiate. Executed consent forms are collected from all participants prior to convening.
Although confidentiality and privacy cannot be assured in a group environment, quotations selected for publication from these events remain anonymous and privacy is respected. We review the confidentiality and participation agreements publicly and reminded participants to respect the confidential nature of the process before we began. Participants may withdraw from studies and are assured of their ability to do so at any time, without prejudice or political ramification. Should withdrawal occur during the interview process, the notes and transcriptions taken during the interview will be isolated and withdrawn from the study. As external consultants, we hold no position of power over any stakeholders or participants in our inquiries. Therefore, we have no political influence over the process or conflict of interest in the findings or outcomes.
People invited to participate in individual or large group data gathering are capable and able adults; all participants are considered leaders in their community regardless of their position in a hierarchy. The information we collect is qualitative in nature and personally subjective. Each participant has full control over what information he or she shares. Discovery Centre for Entrepreneurship’s invitations and informed consent forms explain how the thesis will be published and disseminated through journals, white papers, or trade publications.
Participant welfare is safeguarded through the privacy and control of information, in accordance with Tri-Council (2010) requirements. All electronic storage devices and paper records are stored in a locked and encrypted storage device. Electronic records are password protected and stored in the cloud with a backup copy retained on a backup device within a secure, password-encrypted network.
On the matter of welfare and social participation, Discovery Centre for Entrepreneurship inquiries may open up dialogues about vulnerable populations and those with limited opportunity and capacity within the workplace. However, these populations may not directly be engaged in the inquiry. Our methods focus on positive outcomes and take a forward-looking view of what factors are considered essential to success.
The Tri-Council (2010) requirements for respect of the research participant’s autonomy are achieved by providing explicit details regarding the research activities. All Discovery Centre for Entrepreneurship invitations disclose that participation is purely voluntary with no compensation offered. Participants are advised of their right to decline the invitation and are made aware of the opportunity to withdraw from the process at any time, without penalty or political consequence. participants would have been asked to maintain strict confidence with respect to their colleague’s input and decision-making during research activities. Comfort breaks are built into the agenda of group events.
Every effort is made to identify a demographically diverse participant pool, using participants with different backgrounds and experiences. We openly disclose a preference for selecting interview candidates who meet certain criteria and are both capable and willing to verbalize their thoughts and share personal accounts of their lived experiences. Information collected is not individually identifiable. Identities of participants are concealed through coding. The methodologies, methods, tools, and protocols of our research projects are ethically considerate of each participant’s need for personal respect, social welfare, and public justice. Those who willingly participate are co-creators of a bright new future.
We deploy qualitative research methods and data collection tools to support a mixed-methods approach. This allowed us to engage divergent participant groups in research activities that are fundamentally constructed differently. We also review ethical considerations governing the identification and recruitment of participants, including the supporting documentation that enabled participants to provide their informed consent. We typically distinguish how these methods produce separate strands of data that are subsequently woven together to form conclusions.