Systemic Action Research in Myanmar

Stephen Gray and Josefine Roos

Josefine and Stephen copyIn 2013, Stephen Gray and Josefine Roos in collaboration with Danny
Burns initiated a process to apply systemic action research methodologies to community learning and action with deeply conflict affected communities in Myanmar. Due to a mixture of contextual and process factors the process was slow to begin. The slow start, however, provided much learning about how to implement flexible, emergent work, given the confines of rigid funding regimes and complex, fluid implementation contexts. The work has accelerated in 2015 in response to adaptations in the implementation of this process. The community-driven systemic action research processes have drawn in hundreds (if not thousands) of community, civil society and elite participants.

The process has also attracted additional funding and technical assistance from international donors, community supporters and INGOs.

The process has generated a couple of significant ‘firsts’, including the first ever mine risk education training for populations displaced by the war and an inaugural youth forum involving hundreds of delegates from across the country.

The systemic action research processes are providing key environments for knowledge creation, providing forums for sub-national dialogue. These will, in turn, over the next 3+ years, inform Myanmar’s national dialogue process, which will be the world’s largest and most complex national dialog process undertaken.

As a case study and a grounded view, the process can teach us much about systems transformation and control parameters; emergent processes within the confines of rigid aid controls; bottom up (seeking) versus top down (planning) processes; linking local and national change processes; social entrepreneurs as agents of change in social systems; and thoughts on new paradigms for aid delivery.

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