Conrad, 2015

Conrad, D. (2015). Education and Social Innovation: The Youth Uncensored Project—A Case Study of Youth Participatory Research and Cultural Democracy in Action. Canadian Journal of Education / Revue Canadienne de l’éducation, 38(1), 1–25. Retrieved from JSTOR.

*Study your chosen paper for the nature of participation as described by Kemmis et in pp. 33-37. For example, consider Collins' research - how are legitimacy and validity achieved through participatory practices and communicative actions in this research? What more or less should be considered with respect to participation for action?

In your blog post discuss evidence from the paper you chose to the commitment of the principles of communicative action such as intersubjective agreement, mutual understanding, and unforced consensus.*


This article discusses social innovation in education informed by arts-based and Indigenous ways of knowing. I use the term Indigenous to refer to First Peoples’ and their wisdom traditions from places around the world and the term Aboriginal to refer to the diverse First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples of Canada. The article looks at the ethical imperative for doing socially innovative work, and examines practices with potential for embedding social innovation in educational scholarship, including experiential and relational educational approaches, such as community-service learning and restorative justice; participatory action research as an allied research approach; and community arts framed as cultural democracy. It describes a research project with street-involved youth as a case study for research that moves toward social innovation through the Government of Canada Policy Research Initiative’s five steps involved in a co-creative social innovation project.

Keywords: social innovation, participatory action research, cultural democracy, community arts, community service learning

As a Caucasian woman, first generation Canadian of German immigrant parents, and a university-based academic, I acknowledge the privilege that I bring to the interpretations I offer here. Informing my discussion throughout are my understandings from working through the arts, which bestow validity to the ways in which I make sense of the world, and my learnings from engagement with Indigenous knowledge.1 I believe that alternative perspectives such as those presented by the arts, which value embodied and emotional experience, and Indigenous ways of knowing for recovering a more interconnected worldview (Sheridan & Longboat, 2014), may offer possibilities for doing education otherwise. (p. 4)

The impacts of social innovation, the roundtable concluded, are “difficult to measure with existing evaluation tools” (p. 4) in that measurable outcomes are not necessarily generated. Rather, outcomes of iterative and “messy” processes are unpredictable and often take years to fully manifest; they are largely local and place-based, though often leading to “significant [long-term] society wide changes” (p. 3). (p. 4-5)

Government of Canada Policy Research Initiative. (2010). Talking about social innovation: Summary of international roundtable on social innovation. Workshop report. Ottawa, ON: Author. Retrieved from Government of Canada website:

As a “new paradigm” research approach (Heron & Reason, 1997), PAR is described as a means of producing knowledge, a tool for community dialogue, for education, consciousness-raising, and mobilizing for action (Park, Brydon-Miller, Hall, & Jackson, 1993). It develops practical knowing in pursuit of worthwhile human purposes and practical solutions to pressing community issues (Reason & Bradbury, 2006). It is research for, with, and by participants accentuating the inherent human capacity to create knowledge based on experience (Fals-Borda & Rahman, 1991). PAR aligns with Indigenous research methodologies (Weber-Pillwax, 2004; Wilson, 2008) in focusing on relationality, respect, reciprocity, and relevance (p. 9-10)

In positioning myself in relation to my PAR work, which has quite explicitly been aimed at addressing challenges experienced by Aboriginal youth, I appreciate a statement attributed to Lila Watson, an Indigenous activist from Australia in the 1970s: “If you have come to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” I understand that injustice, wherever it exists, is ultimately dehumanizing to us all. While true that some in our society suffer from injustice more than others, those who occupy more privileged positions can and should make use of our privilege toward amelioration of wrongs. Moreover, some of the pressing issues of today challenge us all as inhabitants of the planet. (p. 9)

Government of Canada Policy Research Initiative’s (2010) five steps that are involved in a co-creative social innovation project, which are:

  1. Identifying and resolving to address a given problem;
  2. understanding the nature of the problem including its causes and patterns;
  3. engaging all relevant stakeholders to develop a prototype for a solution;
  4. implementing the solution; and
  5. evaluating its impact. (p. 4)