Conferences, Proceedings of the 3rd National Local Government Research Forum

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The lived experience of Insider Action Research in a local government setting
Adele Kenneally

Last modified: 2013-10-23


Insider Action Research is undertaken by researchers within their own organisation. The researcher is an ‘insider’, or a complete member of the organisation and not one who joins the organisation temporarily for the purpose of the research. Action research involves cyclical planned interventions or actions, study and review of the actions, then further revised action. This paper describes the lived experience of carrying out Insider Action Research as a senior manager undertaking a PhD in a large rural council in Victoria. Although the insider has access to internal intelligence which can be useful in addressing and solving practical problems in organisations, this approach is not without its difficulties which can arise from the political and personal dimensions of undertaking research within one’s own organisation. Challenges arise from the tension between the need to be close to the setting and, at the same time, the need to maintain distance in order to be objective and to be able to stand back, assess and reflect. Ethical challenges and role conflict are some of the dilemmas confronted by the researcher, and in the fast moving life of the organisation, the mental and emotional energy required to work through these dilemmas is considerable. Nonetheless, Insider research can also be rewarding and has the potential to provide an avenue for self-development and self-knowledge.

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