Key Themes of the World Congress

In addition to and in support of the reflective 'genealogical' look at our philosophical foundations and an appreciative look at present and future practices in their real-life contexts, we propose the following four themes as conceptual guides for delegates who intend to present at the Congress and for all participants to start contemplating their choices of workshops. They may also serve to create a degree of coherence across time and fields of practice. Each theme will be introduced by an internationally renowned key note speaker.

Theme 1. Philosophical Foundations

This theme will guide the explorations of the philosophical foundations of action-based, social change oriented and participatory approached to research and learning: is there a common and united philosophical basis across the various applied fields? Are variety and hybridity necessary characteristics of the work we do in its several rather distinctive practical and organisational contexts? What have been the (latest) developments in the philosophical underpinnings of our approaches? Ontology, epistemology, the value-base in which we ground our knowledge and the recognition of the spiritual and relational dimension of our work: how can we reflectively and practically deepen and extend our understanding of the influence of these on out practice? How do other-than-western world epistemologies and trans- and cross-cultural relationships influence our practice?

Keynote Speaker: Dr Alan Rayner

Theme 2. Power

Power and its uses, misuses and abuses in the learning and research relationship has over time been receiving waxing and waning degrees of attention, even if the 'action' and 'participatory' references would suggest a greater centrality i our work. How is the theme of power, latently or openly relevant in our practical work and how does it manifest in our working relationships? Some authors now suggest the re-emergence of 'class' in industrialised societies and many see the persistence of other divisions in societies along gender-, race-, ability-, state of 'development' and other lines; how may we take account of this reality in our approaches to AL, AR and PAR? How does participatory practice link up with our democratic ideals? How do the politics of resource allocation, of money and of bureaucracies - state, NGO and corporate - influence our work...for better or worse?

Keynote Speaker: Professor Budd Hall

Theme 3. Methodology

The perennial issues of methodology will remain central to our deliberations; how relevant are questions about quantitative and qualitative approaches, their associated techniques and methods within the context of AR and PAR? What is the nature of the research/learning/consulting relationship in AL, AR and PAR? How do we evolve an appropriate process in terms of overall timing, ethics agreements, agreements about steps? What issues surround our use of language, our metaphors, especially in contexts characterised by deep divisions as mentioned above? What are we to do with the results of our work? How can we negotiate ownership of outcomes and the paradoxes between the commercial and political/personal dimensions of our practice?

Keynote Speaker: Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith

Theme 4. Practice/praxis

Practice/praxis issues and stories about concrete experiences and examples of our ongoing work should remain central considerations. What are the pragmatics of process in participants' AL, AR, PAR work? What stories, 'living theories' and novel/innovative moments can we share for further consideration? What are present contradictions-in-practice and how de we deal with them-also ethically? Many projects continuously touch upon issues of politics and policy; how are the connections being made, what are the emerging issues and the energetic new theories?

Keynote Speaker: Yoland Wadsworth