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Pathways to co-impact: action research and community organising

Banks, Sarah; Herrington, Tracey; Carter, Kathleen

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Tracey Herrington

Kathleen Carter


This article introduces the concept of ‘co-impact’ to characterise the complex and dynamic process of social and economic change generated by participatory action research (PAR). It argues that dominant models of research impact tend to see it as a linear process, based on a donor-recipient model, occurring at the end of a project following the take-up and use of findings. PAR challenges this approach, as impact is embedded in cycles of the action research process; the distinction between researchers, research informants and research users is blurred; and micro process-based impacts, including changes in the thinking and practices of co-researchers, are as significant as findings-based changes in policy and practice. A conceptual framework is developed, based on a three-fold distinction between ‘participatory’, ‘collaborative’ and ‘collective’ impact. This is applied to a case study action research project, Debt on Teesside, working with low-income households in North-east England. The project is analysed in terms of participatory impact (e.g. developing skills of participating households, mentor-researchers, and university staff); collaborative impact (e.g. findings-based changes in thinking, policies and practices of advice, community finance and housing agencies, and local authorities resulting from collaborative research); and ‘collective impact’, adapted from the field of social interventions, which involves organisations collectively targeting specific actions based on research (e.g. changing policy and practices of lenders and government relating to high-cost loans).


Banks, S., Herrington, T., & Carter, K. (2017). Pathways to co-impact: action research and community organising. Educational Action Research, 25(4), 541-559.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 14, 2017
Online Publication Date Jun 15, 2017
Publication Date Aug 8, 2017
Deposit Date Jun 2, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jun 5, 2017
Journal Educational Action Research
Print ISSN 0965-0792
Electronic ISSN 1747-5074
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 25
Issue 4
Pages 541-559


Accepted Journal Article (331 Kb)

Copyright Statement
© 2017 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (
licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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