On Monday the 29th of January at the University of Helsinki, Budd Hall presented the first Orlando Fals Borda Lifetime achievement award in community-based research to Dr. Marja-Liisa Swantz of Finland. The award, created by the UNESCO Chair in CBR and Social Responsibility in Higher Education is designed to recognized women and men who have made significant contributions to the theory and practice of community-based participatory research.
A Pioneer in participatory research
Marja-Liisa Swantz worked in Tanzania nearly full-time from 1952 until 1975, first as a teacher in a teacher training college in the Moshi area of Northern Tanzania, later as a trainer and community development worker with the Lutheran World Mission and still later as a Research Fellow with the University of Dar es Salaam. It was during a period of six years working with women in the Coastal areas of Tanzania near Dar es Salaam, that she began to understand the power of the knowledge that women in these villages possessed. Her work, in many ways similar to work developed by Orlando Fals Borda in Colombia and Paulo Freire in Brazil, was based on participation with women members of the community, learning from them and listening to how they articulated the issues that needed addressing by research and action. Her work in leading the Jipemoyo project, a four-year participatory research project involving community members and students from Tanzania and Finland became an important site that contributed to the eventual emersion of the initial theories and practices of participatory research. After leaving Tanzania, she was the founding Director of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Helsinki and was very active in international networking in support of this approach to research. Her last book, In Search of Living Knowledge as published when she was 90 years old by a publisher in Tanzania where she worked for so many years (Mukuki Na Nyota: Dar es Salaam, 2016).
The UNESCO Chair in Community-Based Research is honoured to be able to recognize the many contributions made by Marja-Liisa in the past and continuing today through the awarding of the first Orlando Fals Borda Award for Lifetime Achievement.