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Participatory Organizational Research: Examining Voice in the Co-production of Knowledge


  • The authors would like to thank the panel group members, peer researchers, residents and care home staff and managers who generously gave their time to participate in the research. The authors are also grateful to the two anonymous reviewers of the paper and Anne Cunliffe who provided helpful comments on an earlier draft, as well as for the financial support from the Department of Health and Comic Relief in funding the research study (PR-AN-0608-1022). The views expressed in this paper are not necessarily the views of the Department of Health or Comic Relief.


This paper advances participatory methods in management research. We propose the term participatory organizational research to describe this adjunct to action research. We illustrate the potential of the method to allow sometimes unheard organizational members to generate alternative perspectives that can offer the potential for the co-production of new forms of knowledge that are locally relevant. Participatory methods originate from work with marginalized groups and have been used more commonly in community and organizational development. The aim of such research is, generally, to change the social and organizational conditions within which participants operate by using their perspectives as active participants to develop alternative possibilities. As such, this research method has significant potential for management researchers in providing the means for unheard organizational members to voice their perspectives: a central component, we argue, in knowledge co-production. Based on a participatory study of care quality in elder care institutions, we examine in detail how participatory organizational research can enable voice and explore some of the structural limitations particularly in respect of research ethics.