The Role of the Mediator in Action Research
The action research process requires the joint efforts of diverse parties directed toward their mutual benefit. The skills, resources, time horizons, and goals of the parties differ so greatly, however, that mediation frequently becomes necessary in order to integrate their efforts. Mediation both interprets concepts, attitudes, and behavior of one party to the other and points toward adjustments that each will have to make to increase the likelihood of a successful outcome. As Normann (1969) puts it, an organization has both a domain with which it interacts frequently, and a distant environment with which it interacts infrequently. He considers that “external stimuli emerging in well known parts of the environment… can, in general, be readily perceived and integrated by people in the organization. When, however, stimuli are emitted from elements outside the domain, no clear picture of them can be assembled and their meaning cannot be interpreted.” This gives rise to the need for a mediating system to translate stimuli from the distant environment into the language and thought concepts of the organization. As the action research organization and the client organization are normally in each other’s distant environment, the process requires some form of mediating system. Figure 1 illustrates the function of the mediating system in making stimuli more familiar to people in the organization.
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