by Jared Wesley
Three things you need to know about pracademia...
1. Pracademia is a culture – a network of people who appreciate the benefits of solving real-world challenges by combining practitioner and academic perspectives. While often associated with governance (political science, public administration, and public service), pracademia is not confined to these fields.
2. A pracademic is someone whose work as a practitioner draws heavily on academia, or whose academic work is closely connected to the practitioner’s world. Pracademics may work within either community, move back and forth between them, or straddle the divide.
3. Pracademia allows practitioners to get off of the dancefloor and onto the balcony, while allowing academics to get out of the balcony and onto the dancefloor. Both communities benefit from a more holistic perspective.
Three myths about pracademia...
Myth #1: The gulf between academics and practitioners is too wide. Critics argue that academics (and their research findings) are too esoteric and divorced from actual practice, while practitioners’ work is bereft of any connection to theory, evidence, or rigorous research.
The reality: Both sides have a long way to go to make their work relevant to the other, but the work starts at home. Academics must acknowledge the benefits of grounding their research in real-world evidence, and practitioners must be more receptive to allowing academics direct access to their day-to-day environment. By the same token, practitioners must recognize the value of taking an academic approach to evidence-based decision-making, while academics must make their research more accessible to people outside their discipline or subfield.
Myth #2: Neither side has anything meaningful to offer the other.
The reality: Pracademia makes academic work more relevant, anchoring applied research in real-world problems and grounding theory in real-world experiences and evidence. Pracademia also provides academics with new avenues for research, new venues for knowledge dissemination, and new paths for career development. For practitioners, pracademia supports the push for evidence-based practices and innovation, and the desire for career growth and learning.
Myth #3: Building pracademic networks is too difficult.
The reality: Pracademic networking has never been easier. Technology allows pracademics to connect through blogs (like this one), Twitter (#pracademic), and Flipboard. Organizations like IPAC host events to facilitate face-to-face connections. Secondments, internships, funding programs, scholarships in residence, professional graduate degrees, university courses, post-graduate certificate programs, associations, symposiums and workshops, journals and presses, and other institutions also exist connect the academic and practitioners’ worlds.
Want to continue the discussion on pracademia? Join Maria-David Evans and Tracey O'Reilly.
Jared Wesley serves as Director of Federal-Provincial Relations for the Government of Alberta, adjunct professor of Political Science at the University of Alberta, adjunct professor of Political Studies at the University of Manitoba, and Academic Chair of the Institute for Public Administration Canada (IPAC), Edmonton Regional Group. Find him on LinkedIn, Twitter (@ipracademic), and Flipboard.