By Graham Room
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Extra resources for Cross-National Innovation in Social Policy: European Perspectives on the Evaluation of Action-Research
2 The wider network of innovators and practitioners who are working in related fields provide an inventory of practical knowhow and methods of working. This the project inherits. The anomalies or crisis which the project has been set up to resolve extend also, however, to these practical tools, which are proving inadequate. The action-research project develops new tools and methods through its programme of work and can make these available for wider examination by embodying them in manuals, training programmes, audio-visual aids, etc.
Public debate about the performance of these services and perhaps growing dissent by the target group itself - throws doubt not only upon the effectiveness of these services in meeting needs, but upon the very definition of those needs. The threat to the legitimation of conventional practice may even involve the fear that these services are actually damaging to the needs of the target population, for example if they enforce passivity and dependence. Action-research projects therefore typically attempt to involve the target group in redefining the needs to which services should minister.
Like innovators in the natural sciences, the action-researcher works within a community of researchers and practitioners, addressing himself to the theoretical and practical debates which preoccupy them and submitting the innovations which he develops to their critical scrutiny. 162). His intervention therefore unavoidably has moral and political implications; and the changes which he makes in his world - and which demonstrate the feasibility of the new paradigm which he is advancing involve argument and negotiation with the various actors involved.