Participatory action research: a winning strategy for KM

2014-06-11T14:33:13Z (GMT) by Gillian Ragsdell
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to contribute to an emerging debate centred on the ways in which knowledge management (KM) might be effectively researched and, in turn, how KM practice might be improved. Design/methodology/approach – Burrell and Morgan's paradigms are used to set the scene and to highlight the changing focus in three closely related areas – research per se, the KM movement and KM research. Albeit the changes are not occurring simultaneously, the general trend in these areas is similar i.e. there is a move from a functionalist stance to one based on interpretivism. Next, case study research and participatory action research (PAR) are introduced as examples of research approaches that, respectively, tend to reflect the functionalist and interpretivist paradigms. Then there is an analysis of a KM research project from each of these approaches. Each research project is analysed with respect to five dimensions and in terms of the benefits that the organisation gained for its KM practice. The analysis is used as a vehicle to propose that PAR makes a significant contribution in tackling some of the acknowledged obstacles to effective KM practice. Findings – The characteristics of PAR would appear to complement KM activities. As such, PAR is put forward as a strategy for meaningfully researching KM while, simultaneously, improving KM practice. Originality/value – This paper accelerates discussion about how KM research is undertaken and demonstrates how the synergy between PAR and KM can be exploited for the benefit of KM researchers and practitioners.