Heal the Streets in San Diego
Last week 6 of us from Heal the Streets flew down to San Diego for the 9th Annual Action Research Conference. We gave 2 presentations on our Youth-Led Theater-Based Participatory Action Research, and I spoke on a panel about my impressions of the conference. It was a wonderful exchange of knowledge in a space created to disrupt ideas about ‘who creates knowledge,’ ‘how knowledge is generated,’ and ‘what counts as legitimate knowledge’.
In our workshops, we shared the steps of our research process, and samples from our forum theater piece. It was, I think, affirming for all of us. We got overwhelmingly positive feedback, and some shout-outs from the main stage. Some of my highlights from our workshops:
When Askari York led a room full of professors and grad students in chanting “YOLO – You Only Live Once”,
- Ayana Best shared stories of how she came to this work and our research thus far,
- Tele’jon Quinn invited them to write a poem with the prompt “If your action research could talk…” and,
- Myeisha Williams got everyone to jump out of their skin with her Oscar worthy acting in our forum theater piece.
Along with comments like “you killed it” and “this is the best thing at the conference this year,” there was a question from a participant that really bothered us. She asked, “What do the youth from Oakland, who aren’t as privileged as you, think of this?”
Embedded in that question is the idea that most Oakland youth couldn’t do this, that the HTS fellows are not researching their peers, but instead “others” who they think ‘about’ and ‘for’, instead of ‘with’, and that the forum theater piece is simply created out of speculation, not real life experiences. The question reinforced my feeling that at least for some, in practice, even action research is much closer to “that other kind of research” than it is to Participatory Action Research.
All in all though, we met phenomenal people and gained insight into the various applications and processes used in action research. In one of my favorite workshops, led by Mary McDonald and Elizabeth Castillo about non-profit leadership, we engaged in a World Cafe process to answer questions about action research, and then collectively developed some metaphors. Here are my notes in visual form.
Action Research starts by getting your buttons pushed (getting angry, connecting with personal issues) then pushes you to jump outside the box to “become the research”, to be an “I” and join with other “I”s (instead of “theys”) and take a risk. Together, through our research we jump off into the unknown to engage with the world in a spiraling process of action and reflection. And through that, we create a youth-led vision for the world we will build.
Feb 22, 2013
Feb 14, 2013
Jan 30, 2013
Jan 25, 2013