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Butcher, M 2007, 'Participatory development: methods, skills and processes; a design framed action research thesis', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright M Butcher 2007


The research question that forms the body of this thesis is: ‘What methods, skills and processes does the participatory development practitioner require for effective practice?’

The intention behind this research topic has been to identify how to create socially relevant spaces within todays contemporary conditions of society. This is a reflection of an understanding of myself as someone within the ‘idealist’ stream of endeavour as defined by Charles Jencks in ‘Modern Movements in Architecture.’

As I have a design background, I chose a design methodology to undertake the study. The methodology is documented by Donald Schön in the book ‘The Reflective Practitioner’ and is, in a general sense, also the methodology David Kolb documented in ‘Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development’. An element of this learning approach is for a designer to create a useful artefact that can be considered and evaluated, thus the thesis also comprises the DVD: ‘Outside the Gates, Development Processes for the Real World’.

In writing the thesis I became aware that this learning process has been, and still is, central to development itself within our culture of generative change. I first arrived at this intuitively while building the DVD, but it became more explicit during the DVD evaluation. The thesis thus commences with a description and rationale for the methodology.

After describing the methodology I devote three chapters to providing the background to both the form and content of the DVD. This draws almost exclusively from personal experience, though with references to architectural history, theory and practice. This includes observations on the theme of technological development, generative change and one of the real needs for our physical and psychological well being - shelter. Thus the DVD sits at a mid point in the thesis. Following the creation of the DVD, I have in accordance with the methodology evaluated its content. To do this I used a literature review generally based on Grounded Theory practice. There are four sections in the DVD, with a chapter dedicated to each of these sections.

The thesis concludes with a chapter that fits in the final part of Kolb’s learning cycle, abstract conceptualisation, that considers the meaning of the findings. Ultimately there is an epilogue that outlines the next ‘concrete output’, a recently completed project based on the learnings from the thesis. This is a community engagement training course for project managers.

[To view the content of the DVD: Outside the gates go to]