Action research in a regional development setting: students as boundary workers in a learning multi-actor network.

J. Sol, P.J. Beers, S.J. Oosting, F.A. Geerling-Eiff

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


The educational experimental project ‘Bridge to the Future’, which took place between 2002 and 2007, aimed primarily at supporting the regional development process by action- oriented student research. The second aim was to develop students’ roles as boundary workers in the co-creation of knowledge in a regional setting. Our basic assumption, like Gaventa and Cornwall (2001), is that collaborative research is empowering and innovative because it links science and society in such a way that it involves peoples’ own critical reflection and learning. Actors’ roles need to be redefined during this process. This causes uncertainty which needs coaching and facilitation. The ‘Bridge to the Future’ project started with a kick-off meeting in the area with regional stakeholders, students, supervisors and a project leader. The integrated research question developed there represented the complexity of the regional issues and provided an interdisciplinary starting point for the students who had to conduct their thesis-research in the framework of the collaborative project. As such the research question became a boundary object, which created possibilities for communication, interaction, learning and reflection. During monthly meetings different viewpoints were exchanged and discussed in a multi-stakeholder setting, which slowly developed into a learning community, providing a base and network for regional actors to develop plans collaboratively. As boundary workers the students and their research empowered the people from the area and provided a stronger sense of identity. Important impact of the project in the area is a LEADER network, rural art and rural tourism projects, international exchange visits and the actual development of biomass installations. We conclude that collaborative landscape research can be valuable if actors learn to take on new roles, are supported in creating boundary objects, organise reflection and are able to develop new knowledge, for sustainable development and the management of landscapes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKnowledge in action: The search for collaborative research for sustainable landscape development
EditorsA. van Paassen, J. van den Berg, E. Steingröver, R. Werkman, B. Pedroli
Place of PublicationWageningen
Number of pages319
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Publication series

NameMansholt Publication Series
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers


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