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Ethics of CER
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An action orientation to CER situates research as a powerful driver of political and systemic change both within a community and within broader systems that affect that community. CER projects should begin with a responsiveness to community issues and assets, and should aim to generate actionable changes at multiple levels.
CER should, through process and/or outcome, lead to or constitute advocacy, impact, policy changes, active response, and knowledge that may be used by the communities involved (Chou & Frazier, 2019; Khodyakov et al., 2016; VanAuken, 2019). An action orientation leans into the potential for research to be highly political, and to be a potential catalyst for systemic changes such as policy transformation and advocacy work. In research with Indigenous communities, this means active labour to decolonize the production of knowledge as per the First Nations OCAP Principles (Ownership, Control, Access, and Control). In particular, the “Control” principle mandates that: “The aspirations and rights of First Nations to maintain and regain control of all aspects of their lives and institutions include research and information. The principle of ‘control’ asserts that First Nations, their communities and representative bodies are within their rights in seeking to control research and information management processes which impact them” (FNIGC, 2011, p. 14).
Tips & Considerations
Respond to community issues and conflicts
Chou and Frazier (2019) use the term “respond” as one of their “4 Rs”, wherein this ethical principles “serves as a reminder to initiate an appropriate course of action to the extent that it is ethically advisable, safe, and feasible, even if only to disclose transparently that a solution is yet unclear, and that time to confer with others is needed” (p. 4).
Produce useful and applicable knowledge
“All research must produce useful knowledge, help advocate for vulnerable community needs, lead to policy changes, and/or have a real world impact” (Khodyakov et al., 2016, p.54).
Embrace the political nature of research
Politics is highly visible in what counts as action research, what should be the focus of enquiry, whose practice is being studied by whom, and whose theory is valid” (McNiff & Whitehead, 2006, p. 9). An action orientation to CER calls for a researcher to simultaneously be involved in the construction of knowledge and advocacy/activism for the community with whom they work.
Reflect on your own values and how you might hold space for different worldviews and values
“Action researchers believe that people are able to create their own identities and allow other people to create theirs. They try to find ways of accommodating multiple values perspectives” (McNiff & Whitehead, 2002, p. 17).
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What is the plan for the generation of practical research that is understandable to (and usable for) a broad audience?
- How can this research be used as evidence that demonstrates a particular community need?
- How can this research be used as evidence that supports or bolsters an existing local movement?
- What are some systemic barriers facing the community, and how might this research begin to transform or eliminate such barriers?
- How can the researchers and their affiliated institutions leverage their power and privilege to change policies and advocate for high level change (e.g. institutional, governmental)?