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The Accidental Collaborator: Participatory Action Research as an Emergent Framework for Sustainable Multi-Stakeholder Engagement The Accidental Collaborator: Participatory Action Research as an Emergent Framework for Sustainable Multi-Stakeholder Engagement HOT

BACKGROUND 

As part of a three-year review cycle, a series of post-graduate program review initiatives were conducted in 2013 by the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology (FEIT) at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia. This was conducted through an Industry Engagement Project utilising multiple research methods to gather information from various stakeholders. 

PURPOSE 

This  paper  aims  to  present  two  levels  of  project  reflections  based  on  the  postgraduate  review initiatives  conducted.  Firstly,  it  reflects  on  the  mechanisms  that  lead  to  the  emergence  of  a  multi-stakeholder  action-research  framework  that  is  practitioner-orientated,  reflective  and  collaborative. Secondly, it reflects on the attributes and skills necessary to inform such a framework. 

DESIGN/METHOD  

This paper draws from academic literature about emergent research processes and action-research mechanisms  to  support  the  reflections  made.  This  paper  reflects  on  the  collaborative  stakeholder engagement  process  that  commenced  in  2013  as  a  participatory  action  research  process.  The research  process  involved  a  series  of  research  initiatives  as  consultation  and  collaborative mechanisms to investigate and review the current postgraduate courses on offer.  

RESULTS  

Information elucidation through traditional research approaches (surveys, interviews) is perceived as insufficient  for  project  robustness,  sustainable  engagement  and  knowledge  validation.  Through various research strategies, a pragmatic stakeholder engagement framework applicable to education and industry collaborative processes emerged. The collaborative action-research initiatives provided added  momentum  for  a  series  of  incremental  changes  in  different  Engineering  and  Information Technology  (EIT)  courses.  Another  key  outcome  is  the  inception  of  discipline-specific  Professional Advisory boards (PAb) in 2014. These are networks of academics, students, graduates and industry members  that  undertake  to  advice  and  review  faculty  courses  from  multiple  perspectives  in  order foster currency and relevancy in teaching and learning outcomes. Collaboration and engagement are now fundamental characteristics within the mechanisms of the project. Attributes that contribute to an effective  action-research  framework  include  communication,  iterative  research  design,  co-creation, embracing  uncertainty,  adaptability,  openness  and  critical  mindedness.  Skills  supporting  this collaborative process include effective team and project organisation, communication, multi-methods research and group facilitation capabilities.  

CONCLUSIONS  

Participatory  action-research  framework  is  observed  to  provide  multiple  stakeholders  with  different avenues  to  share  their  priorities  and  interests.  This  paper  demonstrates  that  emergent  research methods  can  be  structured  into  contemporary  action-research  approaches  that  translate  well  as stakeholder collaboration, engagement and advisory frameworks. 

KEYWORDS  

Multiple stakeholders, participatory action research, industry engagement, collaborative framework

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Created 2016-11-19
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