Way of Working: Participatory Research and the Aboriginal Movement in Canada
The purpose of this chapter is to summarize and critique the experience since 1970 of Canada's Aboriginal1 movement in using participatory research--people's research for action--in order to achieve its self-defined goals and objectives. Participatory research--an approach which calls for collective analysis and collective action by rank-and-file members of communities and workplaces--has become a focus of interest and a mode of operation for a growing number of activists and academics internationally. Advocates of this approach are especially concerned with participatory research which is conducted within, and under the auspices of, social movements of all types, including the trade union movement, the women's movement, peasant movements in the Third World, the antinuclear movement, and indigenous people's movements.
Concern with the relationship between participatory research and social movements is more than purely methodological. It is true that certain methods for carrying out participatory research may be applied with effectiveness across a wide range of movements, and therefore frequent and frank exchanges among those who do participatory research in unions, women's organizations, and so on must be promoted. However, the concern is also strategic. Understanding participatory research experiences, particularly at the local level of social movements, may yield valuable information regarding the potential bases of new political alliances across the movement. Of course, the precise nature of cross-movement alliances will be determined by the specific conditions existing in a given social formation, at a particular historical moment.
The fundamental problem before us is how to use experience as a basis not only for predicting, but also for collectively directing, our future. An