Title

Exploration and harnessing of usable knowledge in interpretive participatory research : a case of women in the Zambian mining community

Date of Award

2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology

Faculty

Faculty of Business and Law

First Advisor

Madeleine O'Gilvie

Second Advisor

Llandis Barratt-Pugh

Abstract

This qualitative iterative study is informed by a pragmatic application of participatory action research (PAR) methodology in the mining community of Chingola - Zambia. The inquiry was motivated by argument in the literature for better articulation, conceptualisation and implementation of PAR and other grassroots interpretive participatory research approaches. The study examines how tacit and explicit knowledge is explored and harnessed for problem solving, decision-making, planning and innovation, to enhance and sustain the livelihoods of community members. Three action research perspectives (Coghlan & Brannick, 2005; McKeman, 1996; O'Leary, 2005) were reviewed to inform the conceptual framework, while five distinct components of PAR were identified and utilised to explore and inform the broad research questions.

The research setting is characterised by the outcomes of post-socialist privatisation of mining enterprises experienced in the mid 1990s, which have impacted the livelihoods of mining community members and altered their conventional context. In particular, this study engages the perceptions of women aged 45 and over, and how these changes have influenced their daily lives. Having identified dislocation and empowerment as broad social issues in the selected community, PAR was employed as an intervention to build problem-solving capacity, among participants. The study intended to gain an in-depth understanding of a social change process, within the context of a real life situation, and from the standpoint of affected organisation members. An investigation of the process and outcomes of the Chingola Project (CP) were used to inform best practice in the use of PAR.

Influenced by postmodernist thought, the study is primarily enlightened by the paradigm of praxis and the psychic prison metaphor, and how these impact on PAR, over and above, the functionalist and the interpretive paradigms (Burrell & Morgan, 1979). It is apparent that precedence set by action researchers is mostly labelled as interpretive. The researcher illustrates the significance of extending PAR into praxis, as an aid to achieving enhanced organisational performance, as well as designing and implementing sustainable social development initiatives. Praxis is presented as a remedy for liberating imprisoned mindsets; mindsets which are then enacted upon the world in the present context and in real time. This is in contrast to enacting socially constructed and sustained realities that are detached from the current situation, as represented by interpretivism (Morgan, 1980).

Concepts of knowledge management, capacity building, social and cultural capital, and PAR were reviewed for their relation to knowledge sharing, collaborative learning, engagement of mental models and social change. In linking the findings to selected concepts, it was observed that most participants were extremely nostalgic and unmotivated; socialised and imprisoned in a strong culture of dependency. They attributed their problem situation to privatisation, new mine corporations and the Government. The researcher found that engaging subjects with such mindsets, in a process that requires a real connection to their present social dilemmas, posed a challenge to attaining socially significant change, and was a barrier to generating authentic and sustainable outcomes.

In seeking to ensure that ownership of the social dilemma was gained by pai1icipants, specific research methods were employed to generate an environment enabling participants to liberate or shift their mindsets to match real time. The study illuminates specific triggers that instigated social change in some participant perceptions and behaviours, which then critically began to challenge the status quo. The researcher established that lengthy contextualisation (Klein & Myers 1999) and force field analysis (Lewin, 195 l) would be significant stimulants for best practice in the use of PAR. In addition, understanding and managing variations of participation and engagement in the PAR process, was given fundamental recognition. Individual and focus group interviews; document analysis; photography and picture elicitation as well as two split capacity-building workshops were employed to collect data.

The study recommends an extension of the PAR procedure into the paradigm of praxis, as a remedy for linking participants' mindsets to their present social dilemma, when seeking to enhance organisational performance; and to achieve socially significant and sustainable livelihoods. Contextualisation implemented in this study, involving a holistic and lengthy social and historical analysis of life (Klein & Myers, 1999) and revelation of underlying factors that shape the mindsets of community members is also proposed as a significant activity in the PAR process. This intervention culminated in evident mindset shifts for some pa1ticipants, as well as collaborative consensus to register a women's community based organisation, signifying an effective and organic exit strategy by the researcher. The process and outcomes contribute to a model for best practice in the use of grassroots participatory research. Although results for the study cannot be entirely generalised, they can be adapted and used as a prototype in similar contexts. It is hoped that mining and other satellite corporations, seeking to be socially responsible and to contribute to matters of social development and sustainability, will be informed by this thesis. Similarly, local government and community development agencies, and local and international NGOs can benefit from this conceptualisation of PAR and the subsequent outcomes.

LCSH Subject Headings

Action research.

Participant observation.

Women in development -- Zambia.

Mines and mineral resources -- Social aspects -- Zambia

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