Finding colleagues to talk to: Research for ALARA's web presence

colliver's picture

Oh dear me, last blog post in 2008! I take this to be symptomatic of the way being coordinator of this site absorbs time for maintenance, amd steal time away from my creative work. And yes, supporting the community with these facilities is creative work, but look at how much people use it! Last entry June, then March 2011, and bugger all response to those posts. I'm depressed. I feel hopeless. What does this community want? I see little evidence of site members wanting to talk to others using these media.

So I'm going to approach my role in a different way. Rather than guess at what our membership wants, I'm going to research what I myself want with this community, and from the virtual world, and build from those understandings. Other ALARA members and site members are welcome to join me. John Saward (our behind-the-scenes Drupal guy) is with me. Welcome all. Call this Probe#1 into the virtual world.

A simple starting point: How do I find the people with whom I want to talk? Assumption: for other experienced AR practitioners, a significant need is not to get more information on AR (conferences and journals suffice) but to find people to talk to who have depth of experience. Those people are hard to find. They are usually spread out across organisations, countries. 

My context: Turning 60 next year. Finished PhD this year. Landcare, the movement with which I've been working for six years, is in an hiatus. I'm looking out at what is next for me, balancing letting that come to me, and inquiring after it, dreaming it up, repositioning the place of will in my working and paying more attention to what is present. Outside, it's a beautiful morning (see the pic below, taken around 7.30 this morning). I see a slice of it past my desk. I have the front door open and the bird calls temper the virtual. Summer is here, after a long winter. Things are sweet. 

Who do I want to talk to, about the bleeding edge of my work? I'm after colleagues.

How will I find them?

Does the web presence of those I might want to talk to:

a) give an overview of what they are on about?

b) give me a sense of how they live and work?

c) let me join in, easily?

This then is the start of a chronicle. My findings will guide my recommendations to ALARA, as to what facilities it should provide for action researchers seeking conversation.If you join me, and link your plog posts to mine, we'll weave understandings together.

P1020784.JPG53.62 KB


Hi Ross, I will be in Melbourne in about 2 weeks - for just over 2 weeks - may be catch up some time over that period.

warm wishes deb 

colliver's picture

Sorry I missed replying

Deb, around about the middle of December, things got wildly out of control in my world, so missed seeing your note here, and getting in touch. Send me a text when you next in the vicinity.

it also didn't get an automatic notification of your comment from the website which should have happened. I will go and check my settings.

Ross Colliver, TTDG, 0411 226519


It's difficult to do in this environment Ross, 'cos you are asking people to start all over, to write posts in a place they might rarely visit. Rather it might be wise to go where people are, start conversations and draw them back with links into the resources you have here, as you did with me, after I sent you a connection easily. That way social connections can exist, alongside, concurrent with, professional discussions.

I sometimes converse with Diane, as others do in, but can be better for groups with a professional common interest.

Now that social media is so common a way to connect and both these sites are mobile enabled, you are really pushing uphill to have people come here without a hook.

So go out there and start fishing! :o)

WebMaster's picture


I agree. A true and prominent and juicy Facebook presence for ALARA would be well worth investigating.

As an experiment I just entered ALARA into the Facebook search box and got no results relevant to this organisation.

I habitate facebook in real-time almost every day. Facebook is always on, as I work.

I go to linkedin sometimes.

I think many people choose a platform for engagement and cannot cope with switching too much to other platforms.

Facebook is the engagement platform of choice for many people.

There are ways of integrating a Facebook presence with a site presence. But I don't recommend trying to achieve that in the version of the site we currently run.


ALARA Webmaster.

colliver's picture


Thanks Jo, for the push to get out there and start fishing. I've been spending more time on Facebook, having set up my own page, and one for the Riddells Creek Studio, an enterprise with my partner Alice Cummins. So I it felt familiar to me to create a Facebook page for ALARA. I can keep an eye on it alongside my other sites, and throw things up as I think about them.

Then I went to the Action Research and Learning in Organisations group in LinkedIn, and joined that.  I've also decided to move my own blogging outside the walls of the ALARA website.

Finally, I am working my way through "Digital Habitats", concentrating my attention on the diagnostic questions that should guide me as a tech steward.

Warm regards

Ross Colliver, TTDG, 0411 226519

Dianne.ALLEN's picture


Yes, I am still around, and still watching email lists, and ALARA incoming items, and active at Facebook on occasions, at a Ning site on other occasions, and with Tapped In ... [waves to Jo and Ross]

The enthusiasm, and high expectations, seen in the 'prospective research' of, what? 9years ago?, has, for me, proven just that: high and unrealistic expectations and beat ups.

My most recent effort has been with trying to be a node in the 'pulling' process of PLNs, etc, and has not convinced me that these platforms will naturally become an effective part of enough people from a small community of practice to sustain community and engagement. 

One of the difficulties I see is the 'cutting edge' of ongoing technological innovation and diversity.  The lack of stability, of those drawn to that, spills over, at this stage, to what might happen here.


colliver's picture

Enough people, enough depth


So have you seen any digital space that generates the kind of engagement that might satisfy an action researcher? Other practitioners seem to make use of, and find their paractice deepened by, virtual interaction. I'm thinking here of case studies in Wenger's "Cultivating Communities of Practice" and more recently in "Digital Habitats". 

Are we dealing with a species, the action researcher/learner, dependent on face-to-face interaction, with a crowded email in-box seen as a necessary evil?

Ross Colliver, TTDG, 0411 226519

FERGUSON's picture

Connecting online

Hi all, and hang on in there Ross!

 For me, as for a previous respondent, unless something 'pops up' in my email to alert me to conversations being had, I don't make time to go into websites. I have contributed fairly regularly to the BERA practitioner researcher online discussion, but only because it pops up in my email. Sometimes (although not recently) the volume becomes overwhelming, and I just go delete, delete.

The online community is energetically co-ordinated by Jack Whitehead, who is the person who works VERY hard to keep it going, to link new work by some authors up with what's already there, encourages us to talk with each other etc.

I am sure there is a way for ALARA conversations that occur on this list to pop up in my mailbox, but I don't think they do at present, and unlike Diane and some others, I am not a regular user of Facebook, Ning or other social networking opportunities. This is partly lack of confidence in how those work, but more likely having my fingers in too many pies already. So it's partly self-protection.

Don't know if this will help you at all Ross, but thought I'd contribute so you know the stone that you threw into the pond has at least released some ripples! Now going back to find a paper on storying that I read in the latest e-journal, which is why I came into the site in the first place (grin!)



Pip Bruce Ferguson Teaching Developer University of Waikato Hamilton, New Zealand

colliver's picture

Voices appear like mushrooms after warm rain

Pip, how lovely to read your experience! In fact, just when I'm about to turn on my heel and walk out of the room in disappointment, I find the conversation alive. Troubling that I haven't been getting automatic email notiification of the posts here. John (if you are reading this) does this have a quick fix, or do we add it to the list of deisireables for the next website?

Pip, you can set you profile to be sent email notifications. look in "using the site'

Bob Dick has had great success with list servers, where everyone in the group is emailed every post. The Australian Faciliators Network uses one, and I have colleagues of varying digital engagment who find it a useful way to be part of a community of practice. These work because you get an email, and everyone looks at their inbox.

Not everyone over 35 has their Facebook page open all the time (like John), but a lot of people under 35 do. I just had my youngest daugher over for a week, cooking with me for a residential workshop my partner was running. Elizabeth, 22, maintained conversations via text, Facebook and email through our working day (very little phone - she can't afford it). She would drop out of our interaction into these others, at appropriate pause points in the flow of our work, then come back again. I found this disconcerting, but got the feel of it after several days.

Jo's observation here that it's easier to find conversations where people are already conversing has pulled me up short. Hence the shift out to Facebook, and LinkedIn, and my new blog outside the ALARA site. The inquiry continues. 

Ross Colliver, TTDG, 0411 226519

International Connections and conversations

Claudia Glilberg from Sweden and I, currently in France met today!!! on Skype - we had a great chat to get to know each other!!
Claudia would like to attend Committee meetings monthly - or have the option of attending depending on health, work etc
I was in Sierra leone last month and I could not attend - so as long as at least one of us can attend each month we will have a voice and can share updates with each other and if more than one of us can attend that is well and good. 
Claudia and I talked about sharing our conversation with international alliances over facebook over the next year, and perhaps linked in - not through the website.
It seems that these days websites are landing pages but not necessarily places for conversation - places like linked in and facebook and yammer are places where people dialogue.
Cathryn I think  set up the ALARA facebook site for the conference last year. 
As there are already some members on this site It would be easy for cathryn to edit this page and have it as the ALARA facebook site with the ALARA web address and an explanation of ALARA - if that is OK with Colin and the committee?
Facebook allows events - so any conference, congress or meetings can be posted as an event and all members on facebook can see and be invited to these events
we can invite all current members to the facebook site plus anyone who we know or meet who is interested in action learning or action research or systems thinking, learning etc and extend the connections via facebook - of course with the alara website connection on facebook - people can go to the alara site to become a member. The ALARA facebook site can extend the conversation on AL and AR to non members.
Claudia said she will look at setting up a linked in ALARA site - there is already an action research group on Linked In that we are both in  -Claudia will take a look at wheher we need an ALARA group on linked in or whether we refer ALARA members to the action research group and connect with other members who are interested in ACTIOn Research and then connect them back to ALARA. Perhaps Claudia could contact the organiser of the Action Research group on linked in and see if he is a member of ALARA.
Claudia is also having conversations with ENCELL - the Centre for Life Long Learning that she is connected with about some kind of an alliance with ALARA.
I made numerous attempts at connecting with the Presencing Institute last year and somehow my connections dropped out, didn't go live or something. Now I am back in the developed world and have technology again I will connect again. This is the place where I most want to focus on establishing a connection as they are promoting a global interest in Action Research.
Claudia and I can both attend next Wednesday's meeting at 6pm Australia time. 8.00 am in Europe.
Claudia will follow up with anything I left out.
we welcome all input and conversation about creating visibility and connections with people and organisations interested in action learning and action research globally. 
warm wishes

colliver's picture

Many connections into ALARA


thanks for posting this here, and fewer suggestions about different places where ALARA might have a web presence. Down below I note that I've created an ALARA Facebook page ... what I now need to do is keep posting you stuff up there.

I've also been listening into conversations in the LinkedIn group. what amazes me is that there is an ongoing conversation. Fantastic! It's something that we just don't have that the ALARA site, which is dominated by the business of organising ALARA, not by practice issues. So I think I now need to make a reference to both of those (the LinkedIn group, and the ALARA Facebook page) on the ALARA home page.

All of which is a lot of linking the sake of very little conversation. As an action research practitioner, I'm still left hungry for depth of discussion about action research. I recently was part of a group of critical friends for a learning project working with Australian agricultural researchers operating in Africa. I got more stimulus out of those two hours, and gave more of my own understandings, than I've been able to generate in a couple of years of digital exchanges.  

Look forward to joining you in the MC discussion this week. And Claudia, it's great to reconnect to you.

Ross Colliver, TTDG, 0411 226519

alara conversation

Dear Ross


people seem to have conversations on facebook and linled in these days not on websites


websites are like a book cover


and people go to other spcial media sites to talk


I will check out the facebook alara page now


and here we can invite anyone who is a non member to have a conversation


and if you are hungry conversation and it is on linked in - what is stopping you frok having the conversation there?


you can refer to alara in your conversations


cathryn, claudia and I are happy to help with admin on facebook - to invite people to converse and to overwview that the conversation is ethically appropriate etc


see you on facebook!!! 

bdick's picture

Finding colleagues to talk to: Research for ALARA's web presence


I stumbled across this discussion while I was looking for something else.  My recollection is that I used to get notifications about activity on this site.  Now I don't.  That means I visit less often.

Deep conversations about action research and action learning?  I yearn for them.  As others have said, I think they are easier to maintain when something appears in my inbox -- even if only a link to the site.  Otherwise daily pressures intervene and I don't think to visit.

Facebook?  I'd probably use it.  For me, though, it's mostly for family.  For professional conversation I use LinkedIn.  That may be just me, though I suspect not.  I get lots of requests to connect on LinkedIn, and not on Facebook.

Eugene Fernandez's LinkedIn action research site has carried some interesting material.  It demonstrates what is possible. 

--  Bob Dick

colliver's picture

the Facebook group page is up and active


At the start of May, when I was still lying down with my back , there was a flurry of discussion and action on creating a group page in Facebook. Yesterday I finally caught up with what has been going on. Claudia Gihlberg, Deb Lange and Margaret Taylor have put this together - and I was hoping to put the web address here, but there are vagaries in Facebook I just don't understand. Why won't my page show my links to other Facebook pages that I'm a member of? What is a search for a Lara only bring up the ALARA page I created months ago? Why doesn't a search for "action learning and action research Association" find the new ALARA group page?

Anyway, the good news is that these folk who have created the Facebook group, very familiar with using Facebook, and immediately started chatting to each other there. Familiarity with the platform makes all the difference!

Ross Colliver, TTDG, 0411 226519

bdick's picture

Finding colleagues to talk to: Research for ALARA's web presence


There's a coincidence.  This minute I check my email (as I do regularly) and there's a notification about the 2012 ALARA conference on the group "Action Research and Learning in Organisations".  Great! 

--  Bob Dick

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