Operating Principles for Collective Scholar-Activism: Early insights from the Agroecology Research-Action Collective

Montenegro de Wit, M., Shattuck, A., Iles, A., Graddy-Lovelace, G., Roman-Alcalá, A., & Chappell, M. J. (2021). Operating principles for collective scholar-activism: Early insights from the Agroecology Research-Action Collective. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 10(2), 319–337. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2021.102.022


Scholar-activism is attractive to researchers who want not just to learn about the world, but about how to change that world. Agri-food studies have experienced a surge in the past two decades in researchers who see closer ties to social move­ments as key to food systems change. Yet to date, much scholar-activism depends on individually negotiated researcher-movement relationships, which may or may not be sustained long term and where knowledge can remain siloed. The Agro­ecology Research-Action Collective (ARC) seeks something different. Born of a desire to subordi­nate scholarship for scholarship’s sake to the needs and exigencies of movements, ARC envisages collective processes, horizontal non-exploitative learning among ourselves and with movements, and mechanisms for multidirectional accounta­bility. This reflective essay is the story of how ARC set out to “get our house in order”: to organize ourselves as scholars committed to systematizing more accountable and reciprocal relationships with frontline communities and grassroots movements. We first share the Principles & Protocols that guide our actions and the process through which we developed them. We then discuss two intercon­nected arenas in which ARC is developing a com­munity of practice guided by the Principles & Protocols. The first arena is through integrating participatory education into our everyday teaching and mentoring. The second arena is working to achieve broader social and institutional change by sharing methods and strategies for mobilizing resources and legitimating knowledge, both old and new.

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