Danny Burns - Participation Research Cluster Leader
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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:
Deepening and Scaling Participatory ResearchEuropean Journal of Operational Research (2017)
Report on the Deliberative Panel of the Market-based Solutions for the Extreme Poor Programme
This report describes the discussions held by a deliberative panel on disability in Uganda. The panel formed part of a wider research project on ‘market-based solutions for the extreme poor’ funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. More details
Using Participatory Statistics to Examine the Impact of Interventions to Eradicate Slavery: Lessons from the FieldCDI Practice Paper 16 (2016)
This CDI Practice Paper reflects on the use of participatory statistics to assess the impact of interventions to eradicate slavery and bonded labour. More details
Navigating Complexity in International Development: Facilitating Sustainable Change at Scale
International development interventions often fail because development experts assume that our world is linear and straightforward when in reality it is complex, highly dynamic and unpredictable. More details
What is the Unique Contribution of Volunteering to International Development?IDS Bulletin 46.5 (2015)
This IDS Bulletin is entirely based on the global action-research project Valuing Volunteering, commissioned by Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), a UK-based international volunteer cooperation organisation, and conducted by researchers at IDS in partnership with VSO. More details
Tough Shit: What's the link between diarrhoea and bonded labour?02 Dec 2016
By Danny Burns, Pauline Oosterhoff, Rituu B. Nanda
Navigating Complexity in International Development15 Oct 2015
By Danny Burns
The power of connecting insider and outsider relationships29 Apr 2015
By Danny Burns
Seeing the world through a different lens14 Aug 2014
By Danny Burns
Participate’s proposal for Post-2015 targets16 Apr 2014
By Danny Burns
Lessons for contemporary political movements03 Sep 2012
By Danny Burns