Constructing transnational action research networks : observations and reflections from the case of the Citizenship DRC
Brown, L. David
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Many contemporary issues of development and governance are complex beyond the capacities of single institutions or countries. As a result, in recent years we have seen growing attention paid to the importance of networks – ranging from advocacy networks to multi-stakeholder partnerships – for the solution of development problems. This paper is particularly interested in the construction of transnational action research networks that effectively bridge the differences that separate the local from the global, practice from research, North from South, and many relevant disciplines from one another. Such networks must span inequalities in power and resources as well as differences in cultural and intellectual perspectives. Using a unique ‘insider-outsider’ perspective, the paper examines the emergence (during the period 2000–2005) of the Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability, a network of seven partners – from the UK, India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil – concerned with research, capacity building and policy influence on these issues. This case is interesting for several reasons. First the research available on long-term collaboration between Northern and Southern research institutions is very limited. Second, the longitudinal study offers opportunities for understanding development processes that are not visible to the more common comparisons of cases at one time in their history. Finally this research also offers opportunities to look at the challenges of building transnational networks as they emerge across several levels. These represent the areas that are not well developed in existing research on inter-organisational networks. Keywords: action research, research partnerships, networks, citizenship.