Creative Action Research

Creative Action Research combines multidisciplinary research perspectives, including participatory action research, innovative arts-based research methodologies, and social innovation processes, to explore fundamental research questions with participants. By integrating these methods, Creative Action Research™ seeks to encourage, develop, and explore evidence-informed innovations as solutions to complex social challenges (such as climate change). This is accomplished by facilitating an integrative, collaborative, participatory, and respectful research environment, where creative and diverse thinking methods emerge. CAR reflects our commitment to empowerment, action, and knowledge mobilization within and beyond research communities.

Creative Action Research is a variant of participatory action research methodologies. By grounding the practice in creative processes and arts-based methods, design-thinking and capacity building emerges among participants and researchers. Design-system encourages the development of resilience, innovation, and transformational learning within design-system structured (yet still flexible) thinking. This exploratory, trial-and-error dynamic fosters the emergence of social innovations to address wicked problems. Value and emphasis are placed on the highly participatory and creative processes through which research is conducted. In the context of CAR, the processes through which data emerges – the “how” of the data collection – are of equal value to the data itself. Examples of methods used by RbD have included: creative process-based workshops, social innovation labs, and interviews.

One strength of the CAR methodology is the opportunities for engagement with participants who may not feel comfortable working within conventional research parameters. CAR encourages multi-dimensional and inter-generational learning, knowledge development, and knowledge transfer. The methodology recognizes, validates, and invites multiple ways of knowing, being, learning, and thinking. Participants take on active roles within the research process, establishing personal agency and building individual capacity as change-makers. Both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skill development emerges for participants, including project management and project leadership, storytelling, confidence (i.e. public speaking), resilience, creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, and more (see Cox et al., 2021, for more), ultimately enhancing personal agency and adaptive capacity.

This open-ended, inclusive approach actively intends to mitigate and remove systemic thinking barriers in many conventional methods derived from colonial research traditions. CAR methods further enhance the development of participant agency by providing safe spaces for information sharing among participants, uplifting voices and feelings, and acknowledging multiple lived experiences. Thus, CAR fosters an accepting and inclusive research environment developed on four fundamental principles: Process, Partnership, Place, and Purpose.