Systemic Practice and Action Research (SPAR) denotes a family of approaches with different theoretical foundations, the constructive encounter between which may propel the movement forward. A persistent scholarly debate persists between the so-called emancipatory and pragmatic strands, motivating perceptions of the impossibility to jointly accomplish both ‘dialogical’ and ‘revolutionary’ commitments of the movement. This reflects that SPAR is still grappling with how to maintain a normative foundation while prioritising local change processes, thus reconciling what is universally ‘right’ with the locally ‘good’ in order to foster an operational view of the nature of reciprocity and justification. In this paper, I mobilise experiences from five action research projects in the field of natural resource governance to undertake a methodological introspection to examine how we as SPAR professionals may negotiate our approach during project implementation and the encounter of concrete realities and stakeholder interests. The objective is to offer an alternative view on the relationship between the ‘dialogical’ and the ‘revolutionary’ elements of SPAR; a view which rejects a dichotomisation in favour of a critical-pragmatic recursive praxis that depends on the capacity of the researcher to negotiate methodological virtues with co-researchers in the process.
- critical systems thinking