Greetings from Pretoria, South Africa, where ARNA 2017 conference co-chair Doris Santos, Universidad Nacional de Colombia Bogotá and ARNA chair Joseph Shosh, Moravian College, Pennsylvania, USA represented ARNA at the 2015 Action Learning Action Research Association (ALARA) conference. This year’s conference marked a special 25th milestone anniversary for ALARA, and the conference began with a special plenary session chaired by ALARA co-founder Ortrun Zuber-Skerritt, who said “I believe we have much to learn from our experiences across these 25 years of international congresses and from our annual Australasian congresses—gathering people and ideas from around the world, addressing global issues and concerns, creating new ways of learning and research, and creating knowledge for all to share.”
ALARA leaders reflected on their learning, with Pip Bruce Fergusson (Dublin City University) commenting on ALARA’s facilitation of cross-cultural understanding; Eileen Piggot-Irvine (Royal Roads University) noting how the 1997 World Congress in Cartagena challenged collaboration; Ina Louw (University of Pretoria) commenting on the rich learning that occurs through conference participation; Pieter du Toit (University of Pretoria) reflecting on what it was like to convene the first ALARA conference in Africa in 2003; Shankar Sankaran (University of Technology Sydney) explaining why action research needs to innovate to be of value to organizations; and Margaret Fltecher reflecting on professional learning as a member of the ALARA community.Richard Teare, President of the Global University for Lifelong Learning, gave a Friday keynote address on designing development pathways with marginalized young adults. Danny Burns, Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University, in his Saturday keynote address, discussed the need to nurture participatory change at scale.
While in attendance at ALARA, Santos and Shosh met with ALARA president Colin Bradley to discuss ALARA’s formal role in celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first Participatory Action Research World Congress in Cartagena as part of the 2017 ARNA Conference. Assembled ALARA delegates also had the opportunity to connect via Skype with the Collaborative Action Research Network (CARN) Conference taking place simultaneously in Braga, Portugal. At that session, CARN Lead Coordinator Ruth Balogh reflected on the CARN keynote address, and ARNA Knowledge Mobilization chair Lonnie Rowell noted the importance of new international action research network collaboration. Joseph Shosh thanked Lesley Wood, ALARA host site chair, for efforts to bring action research networks together in exciting new dialogic opportunities. Doris Santos commented on the momentum building for new joint action in Cartagena 2017.