Danny Burns

Danny Burns

Professorial Research Fellow

Danny Burns is a Professorial Research Fellow. He led the Participation, Inclusion and Social Change Cluster from 2010 – 2019. His work focuses on participatory learning for social change with a strong emphasis on systems thinking and complexity. He is also a course facilitator for the Using Participatory Action Research to Improve Development Practice short course.

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:

  • Danny is Programme Director of CLARISSA (Child Labour Action Research Innovations in Southern and South Eastern Asia), a DFID funded programme which is being delivered by an IDS led consortium including Terre des hommes, Child Hope, Consortium for Street Children and Ethical Trading Initiative.
  • Community driven Peace Building ‘vestibule de la paix’ 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.
  • 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 analysis 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.
  • 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 was funded by USAID.
  • 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.
  • 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 was funded by Sightsavers HelpAge and ADD.
  • The Participate initiative (2012-13) co-directed with Joanna Wheeler. Participate collaboration between IDS and the Beyond 2015 campaign supported 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. Further work has been funded by Irish Aid ad the British Academy.

Danny is widely published, most recently on systemic approaches to action research. Key texts include:

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 the following doctoral students:

Google Scholar



Participatory Research on Reintegration in Bangladesh and Cambodia

This research project is led by Eric Kasper of the cities cluster and funded by Winrock and USAID. Phase one What constitutes successful reintegration for survivors of trafficking in persons (TIP) and what can various stakeholders do to increase the likelihood of successful...


Participate: Participatory Monitoring and Accountability

The Participatory Monitoring and Accountability (PMA) programme marks a new phase of the Participate initiative. It aims to foster and support PMA learning processes that enable citizen participation for accountability to be embedded in development policy and practice.


Market Based Solutions for the Extreme Poor

Studies have shown that it is often wealthier people in a community who benefit from market approaches to combatting poverty – men more than women, non-disabled more than disabled. So how and to what extent can market-based solutions improve the lives of extremely poor people?




The SAGE Handbook of Participatory Research and Inquiry

This SAGE Handbook presents contemporary, cutting-edge approaches to participatory research and inquiry. It has been designed for the community of researchers, professionals and activists engaged in interventions and action for social transformation, and for readers interested in understanding...

6 September 2021


Qualitative Feedback from Community Participants, NGOs and External Stakeholders on Freedom Fund Interventions to Reduce the Prevalence of Bonded Labour in Northern India

This report was produced by the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) and Praxis, for the Freedom Fund. It is an output of the programme ‘Planning, learning, monitoring and evaluation activities for the Northern India Hotspot’. The Northern India Hotspot was launched in March 2014,...

Danny Burns
Danny Burns & 3 others

13 March 2020

Danny Burns’s recent work


New summaries from the Handbook of Participatory Research and Inquiry

Published in 2021, The Handbook of Participatory Research and Inquiry traces the roots of the radical advancement of methods and gives space to exploring critical issues which need to be understood in order to do good participatory work such as facilitation, reflective practice power analysis,...

15 December 2022


Celebrating Participation Research week

Over 1,600 registered to join in a series of webinars held this week as part of Participation Research Week to mark launch of the SAGE Handbook of Participatory Research and Inquiry. In the sessions, editors and authors of the handbook discussed  cutting-edge approaches to participatory...

24 September 2021