Voices of Change: Participatory Research in the United States and Canada

By Peter Park; Mary Brydon-Miller et al. | Go to book overview

points of contact between community agencies and external institutions. They are often in a critical position to assess when readiness for action within the community coincides with receptiveness to change in the external environment. To counter the danger that technocrats in their employ might preempt the communities' right to direct development, Canadian Native people try to avoid the hierarchical organizational structures favored by mainstream institutions. Regional organizations operate as loose federations, with multiple lines of accountability flowing back to constituent communities. As in the case of Inuit broadcast training, communities set a priority on preparing local personnel to assume technical roles as early as possible in new development projects.


CONCLUSION

Native people in Canada generally subscribe to the view that realization of their social and cultural goals can be achieved within the democratic structure of the larger society. Case material has been used here to illustrate strategies adopted by the members of one specific Native group to assert their development priorities.

The internal conditions discussed are cultural vitality, organizational infrastructure, and availability of economic resources to support participatory development. The external conditions include prevailing social values, the contribution of reformist advocates within mainstream institutions, and the extent of the monopoly exercised by mainstream institutions in relevant sectors of minority life. Interface issues include strategies to modify the effects of power imbalance between minority communities and institutions, facilitation of intercultural communication, and the strategic use of intercultural brokers.

Various Native communities and organizations in Canada have used participatory research methods to stimulate self-reliant consciousness and affirm the value of indigenous knowledge in charting a course for the future. In attempting to implement plans emerging from their knowledge and consciousness they have adopted a pragmatic approach to institutional innovation. Rather than seeking to displace mainstream institutions they have emphasized the complementary nature of their intent and the legitimacy of their proposals for institutional variation.

Participatory research methods have been particularly effective in stimulating self-directed change in small-scale societies. For purposes of Native development in Canada the challenge now is to adapt these methods of analysis and decision making to the larger context of regional community networks, intersocietal relations, and institutional development so that local participatory action may be complemented and enhanced.

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