Knowledge Democracy



Knowledge democracy as a concept with a history is rooted in resistance to the monopolization of expert knowledge producers in relation to global politics of development. Domestically and globally, it is a stance that calls out for inclusion, respect for an “ecology of knowledges,” explicit acknowledgement of diverse ways of knowing, and engagement with the work of intercultural translation as a way to build bridges across epistemological, socio-political and cultural divides.

ARNA’s Knowledge Democracy Initiative has been a key component of ARNA’s evolving frontiers since 2017. As a part of the planning for the June 2017 ARNA Conference in Cartagena, Colombia, ARNA leaders decided to convene a Global Assembly for Knowledge Democracy (GAKD) at the conclusion of the ARNA conference. This decision emerged from discussions in 2016 between ARNA leadership and the conference planning committee. The GAKD was announced in print through two related documents. In June 2016 a Brief about the GAKD was published on the ARNA website and distributed by email to members (Download the June 2016 Brief). Feedback and further discussion led to the August 2016 publication on ARNA’s website of Volume 1, Number 1 of The ARNA KMb Papers, “ARNA Knowledge Mobilization: A Contribution to Democratizing Knowledge Production in the 21st Century” (Download Volume 1, Number 1).

Subsequently, ARNA’s Strategic Priorities for 2020-2025, established through a 2019 planning process, positioned work on Knowledge Democracy as Strategic Priority #1. This positioning fits well with the history of action research and participatory action research in the Americas and with ARNA’s mission and purpose.

Initiatives and Projects

Within the ARNA community, the emphasis on knowledge democratization has resulted in a number of specific initiatives and events, most of them ongoing, including:

  • Following up on the 2017 Cartagena social experiment by convening Assemblies for Knowledge Democracy.
  • Maintaining a website in support of knowledge democratization:
  • Co-editing a two-part Special Issue on Knowledge Democracy in the international Educational Action Research Journal.
  • Completing a global Photovoice project on Social Solidarity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and publishing an article about the project through Social Publishers Foundation and another on our role as an action research network during a time of global crisis in the Canadian Journal of Action Research.
  • Launching a virtual Knowledge Democracy Dialogues in the Americas project that to date has seen the convening of two successful online dialogues, the first in August 2020 and the second in May 2021. At present (summer 2022) KDI is reactivating the Knowledge Democracy Dialogues in Latin America segment of this project.
  • Establishing a parallel Knowledge Democracy Initiative Global Group (KDIGG) made up of members from Canada, Norway, Sweden, South Africa, the UK, and the US, which is working on developing formats for global dialogic encounters in conjunction with other action research networks, including CARN and the Swedish Participatory Action Research Community (SPARC).
  • Partnering with Social Publishers Foundation (SPF) in promoting web-based publication of practitioner research, action research, and participatory action research, and as of May 2022 supporting dissemination of Reflective Essays on the experience of the 2017 Cartagena Assembly.

Organization and Operations

Three Co-Coordinators presently coordinate the work of the initiatives, monitor their progress, and help promote ARNA communications on the specific initiatives and events as well as broader communications on global activities and events related to knowledge democratization. The current co-coordinators are:

Melissa Hauber-Özer 
Assistant Professor of Qualitative Inquiry  
College of Education and Human Development
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO

Alfredo Ortiz Aragón
Associate Professor
Dreeben School of Education, University of the Incarnate Word
San Antonio, TX

If interested in being a part of ARNA’s Knowledge Democracy work, please contact one of the Co-Coordinators listed above.