Posted January 7th 2010 at 12:03 pm by
in CoLab Philosophy, Mel King Community Fellows

CoLab Leads Course on Action Research: Methods for Co-Creation

CoLab Fellow Derrick Johnson shares a story of practice.

CoLab Sweetspot

MIT Professor Lorlene Hoyt and CoLab Visiting Scholar Sebastiao Ferreira are leading a week-long interactive course in Methods for Action Research.  Through this co-creative experience, urban planning students and the Mel King Community Fellows are exploring the concept of the “sweet spot” (defined as: the intersection of democratic engagement, urban sustainability, and shared wealth generation).

Course participants are working in small groups to practice Semi-Structured Interviewing, Collaborative Inquiry, Active Listening, Reflection, and Framing/Re-framing.

Each group will reconstruct a Fellow’s experience in the field by identifying main actors, describing the evolution of strategies, and articulating achievements and challenges.  From here, groups will extract lessons, identify new research questions, and re-frame a vision for the future.

Through this course we hope to strengthen and build new relationships between Community Fellows, faculty, staff, and students.  Download the syllabus here.

8 responses to “CoLab Leads Course on Action Research: Methods for Co-Creation”

  1. Kevin Dye says:

    Please tell us a bit more about how you teach the Action Research portion. Usually Action Research requires actually implementing something, observing the result, and then reflecting on what has to be revised in one’s models of the situation. How do you do that in the context of a course? It is a problem we face in training practitioners – in that it is extremely difficult to put someone the experience of having to transform their own world view without them being confronted by its shortfall in an actual situation.


  2. Lorlene Hoyt says:

    We just finished teaching the course moments ago. We struggled with the tension that you describe and did our best to illuminate the principles of action research through a series of interviewing exercises, readings, reflection exercises and classroom discussions.

    This course represents the first phase of several emerging action-research projects and a primary objective was to transform the classroom into a space where students and community fellows would make personal and professional connections.

    We’ve captured the activities in a variety of ways and will be posting those materials. Stay tuned.

  3. Amy says:

    Just to clarify further. The class was designed to go beyond simulation and modeling. The students and the fellows who participated in the class are all presently active practitioners in the field. The fellows are seasoned organizers and directors of major organizations from all over the country (mostly the South – see earlier post). The students are also working on different field projects in tandem with their coursework.

    The class was an attempt to bring these two groups together to collectively problem-solve. They were examining their work in real-time, not only in reflection.

    If anyone wants to see a syllabus, please contact us at We’d love to also know what others are doing in the realm action-research.

  4. Ralf Lippold says:


    I have just seen you following the Twitter account of LockSchuppen. This is an ongoing action research experiment where the real and virtual world are combined (CoWorking) in order to create joined value to community. The focus lies on to open creativity within groups (and amongst them).

    I stunned about the various activities that are taking part on action research elsewhere on the globe and miss it here in Dresden (where we actually are based).

    Not sure whether you are already connected to the Presencing Institute Communit ( based in Cambridge where Otto Scharmer ( is doing action research on large scale change.

    I would be very happy to connect further on finding ways to co-facilitate action research workshops. A crazy idea? Perhpas;-) At least not yet done in such a way. What do you think about it?

    Best regards


  5. Sebastiao Ferreira says:

    Kevin, as you know action research can start at any point of the learning cycle: designing, acting, evaluating, (re)thinking, (re)designing. For teaching in one week, we (1) started by retrieving the action through semi-structured interview (instead of carrying out the actions), (2) than the action was evaluated (objectives, achievements, challenges, principles, and surprises), (3) than we moved to the future to re-think the action from the future (re-thinking), and (4) finally we re-designed action by prototyping. In the next phase the fellows will implement their prototypes and we will meet again (probably 6 months) to repeat the process. For most practitioners, going on documentation is a capacity that has be developed gradually. In the last day of the course, the process was revisited from the point of view of the methodology.

  6. alexa mills says:

    Ralf – Otto Scharmer actually taught a portion of the course! Small world! Please, email me at to talk further with the folks who designed the class.


  7. Just to add to the chorus: Otto Scharmer’s PI is one of CoLab’s closest collaborators. We do a number of projects with them including Transformation of Capitalism and Green Hub

    The Mel King Fellows also plan to engage their organizations in action research after taking part in the IAP course. We do not yet know what shape their projects will take but we will keep people posted as their project descriptions come in over the next 10 days!

  8. Tricia Hiley says:

    Sounds like a very interesting way to begin the action research process. I’d love to have you share it with people at the 8th World Congress on Action Research and Action Learning in Melbourne later this year.