Danny Burns is an IDS Research Cluster Leader and professorial Research Fellow. His work focuses on participatory learning for social change with a strong emphasis on systems thinking and complexity.
Between 2002 and 2010 he was Professor of Social & Organisational Learning at the University of the West of England (UWE). At UWE, he co-directed the SOLAR action research centre. Prior to this he was a lecturer, then senior lecturer, at the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol. There he was Programme Director of the M.Sc. in Management Development and Social Responsibility. Previously, Danny worked as the Director of the Tenant Participation Advisory Service for Scotland and prior to that as Director of the Decentralisation Research and Information Centre. Over the past eight years he has directed or co-directed more than twenty participatory research projects.
Recent projects include:
- The Participate initiative (2012-13) co-directed with Joanna Wheeler. Participate is a collaboration between IDS and the Beyond 2015 campaign. It is supporting a major global programme of participatory research which will contribute to global debates on the future of international development post 2015 as well as laying the foundations for an international participatory research network. The project was funded by the UK Department of International Development. Phase Two work is being funded by Irish Aid.
- Voices of the Marginalised: Piloting participatory methods with people with disabilities and older people in Bangladesh (2012-13) with Katy Oswald and in Tanzania (2015). This is funded by Sightsavers HelpAge and ADD.
- Valuing Volunteering (2011-14). Funded by VSO, this is a four country systemic action research project in the Phillipines, Nepal, Kenya and Mozambique looking at the impact of volunteering on poverty.
- Systemic Action Research in the Myanmar Peace Process. Danny is supporting civil society organisations to facilitate community based action research as part of a programme to build community engagement in the Myanmar Peace Process. Phase One was funded by the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) in partnership with the University of Columbia, New York. Phase Two has been funded by USAID.
- Contemporary Slavery and Bonded Labour in India and Nepal. Danny (with Pauline Oosterhoff) is leading a three year learning, evaluation and research programme working with 25 local NGOs to combat slavery. The India work includes the collection and anlysis of life stories and a participatory numbers exercise in 60 Indian villages which will be followed by a two year action research process and the creation of a learning architecture to support NGOs to respond effectively to emerging issues. A similar process will be carried out in Nepal. This programme is funded by the Freedom Fund.
- Peace Building in Mali funded by Humanity United. Danny is co-directing this ten year commitment to a bottom-up community based approach to peacebuilding which draws on some of the participatory methods used in the more local peace building work developed in Kachin in Myanmar and the large scale participatory processes developed in our current slavery and bonded labour programme in India and Nepal. We are also exploring with them how to layer complexity based monitoring, evaluation and learning processes into the programme.
Danny is widely published, most recently on systemic approaches to action research. Key texts include:
- Burns, D. (2007) Systemic Action Research. Bristol: Policy Press
- Burns, D. (2012) Action Research for Development and Social Change. Brighton: IDS
- Burns, D., and Worsley, S. (2015) Navigating Complexity in International Development: facilitating sustainable development at scale
Danny’s interests include participatory methods, systemic action research, community development and community action, the significance of complexity and systems thinking to development and systemic conflict transformation.
Danny currently supervises three research students: