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10 years SevenSenses

From raised eyebrows and primal sounds to a gigantic network

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My goodness… SevenSenses is already 10 years old! I can’t escape the tendency to let some reflections run through my head. Then images pop up of the start of SevenSenses in 2013, with that man at the Chamber of Commerce who looked at me with a raised eyebrow while I stutteringly explained what Participatory Action Research is. And a father who made a kind of primal sound with wide eyes when I announced the existence of SevenSenses: “Huuuuuuhhh! Would that be a good idea in these times of economic crisis?!”

Still, it felt good, even though I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into with my well-meaning one-man business.

Could I have known that 10 years later we would be working with an enormous network of Participatory Action Researchers and other passionate people?!

All beginnings are difficult, and the feeling of the ‘market stall in the empty desert’ really lasted for a few more years. Still, I’m glad I persevered, because I see what Participatory Action Research (PAR) can do in society. Apart from the innovative solutions that those involved in a social problem come up with together and great initiatives that they set up and implement – after all the main goal of a PAR – I also see the enormous impact it makes on the ‘soft side’.

It is always overwhelming, the reactions that I – we – receive from PAR participants, who feel (“finally!”) heard, empowered, build a network, learn from each other, gain more self-confidence and energy and ‘look forward to life again’, you name it. They also often gain more trust in each other and in involved organizations – even if they had to come a long way, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, that’s nice at the locations where a Participatory Action Research has taken place, but if we really want to make an actual turnaround, we have to do a lot more PAR. Systems are getting horribly stuck (think of the healthcare system, the market, the government) and we are experiencing more and more problems. Then you need large-scale disruptive work, and from there, let those involved build something together on the basis of equality that suits them all. That is exactly what PAR does.

We therefore have to carry out PAR in the same places for a longer period of time and more often in new places, on several complex problems at the same time. In my opinion, we are only at the beginning of that tilt with SevenSenses. But such a tilt can suddenly go very fast and could yield very cool things!

Do you want to contribute to that tilt? Fantastic, because as you will understand, many more PAR’s are needed!

And as of today… the new PAR Practitioners Program is open for subscription! It’s THE program in which you gain all the knowledge and skills about PAR in order to make an impact. In your work, or perhaps on a completely different subject than your work, but something that is really close to your heart! It is up to you.

Do we see you soon at the SevenSenses Academy?

Kind regards, also on behalf of my fellow trainers Denise, Geertjan, Minke, Wout, Sandra en Wilma,


Madelon Eelderink spreker