Triple Task Method: Systemic, Reflective Action Research


Triple Task Method: Systemic, Reflective Action Research Simon Bell

This brief article introduces a new methodology for systemic action research — Triple Task (TT) — and sets out its rationale and initial progress in becoming an embedded method for group working. Arising from the authors previous work with soft systems approaches, the Imagine method for sustainable development assessment and action research in a variety of global locations, TT provides a means for groups to engage together in purposive work and, at the same time, for facilitators to understand how the dynamic of the group influences the groups output. TT is based on an ambitious concept and at the time of writing the results of TT applied in the context of an EU Framework 7 funded project are in their early stages but importantly, significant insights are already arising including the answers to some puzzling questions:

  • Do purposeful groups always produce the most insightful outcomes?
  • Do conflictual groups produce incoherent results?
  • What makes a ‘good’ group?


Triple Task (TT) is a unique form of participatory action research in the sense that not only does it attempt to arrive at answers to research questions but also tries to understand what factors may have been at play in arriving at those answers. This attribute makes TT an advance on many other participatory techniques which are more focussed on delivering outputs (representing an apparent ‘consensus’) and less concerned (if at all) on the dynamic behind that ‘consensus’ and how the process may have influenced what was produced.

Participatory research takes many forms but the underlying philosophy is that all those involved—be they ‘researcher’ or ‘researched’—are involved in the design of a research process as well as the interpretation of findings. Power should be shared rather than being concentrated in the hands of a researcher. As a result the very process of doing the research can provide many insights and help bring about positive change. Hence the term ‘action research’; a research process that catalyses action.

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Bell, S. and Morse, S. 2010. Triple Task Method: Systemic, Reflective Action Research. Systemic Practice and Action Research. DOI 10.1007/s11213-010-9171-7