As the 20th century closes, a key question is: What can the social sciences do to help solve the problems of our society and world? The authors identify the principal causes of the crisis in the university and the social sciences to be intellectual fragmentation and a structural contradiction that is built into the American research university. They then propose a radical reorientation of American universities toward helping solve real-world problems-particularly those in a university's local community. The authors suggest that such an orientation can be achieved through communal participatory action research projects designed to help change society. This research strategy, they argue, will significantly advance both general knowledge and human welfare. The article explores, in detail, a communal participatory action research project initiated at the University of Pennsylvania and draws conclusions from this case study that might be applied in other research projects.
Benson, Lee; Harkavy, Ira; and Puckett, John, "Communal Participatory Action Research as a Strategy for Improving Universities and the Social Sciences: Penn's Work With the West Philadelphia Improvement Corps as a Case Study" (1996). Higher Education. 120.