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Participatory action research

Definition of PAR

❶Action research is either research initiated to solve an immediate problem or a reflective process of progressive problem solving led by individuals working with others in teams or as part of a " community of practice " to improve the way they address issues and solve problems. Although developed with reference to citizen participation, it has been applied in various attempts to develop an overview of types of participation in research projects see account in v.

Participation Action Research

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PAR has multiple progenitors and resists definition. It is a broad tradition of collective self-experimentation backed up by evidential reasoning, fact-finding and learning. All formulations of PAR have in common the idea that research and action must be done 'with' people and not 'on' or 'for' people. Inquiry based on PAR principles makes sense of the world through collective efforts to transform it, as opposed to simply observing and studying human behaviour and people's views about reality, in the hope that meaningful change will eventually emerge.

PAR draws on a wide range of influences, both among those with professional training and those who draw on their life experience and those of their ancestors. Many draw on the work of Paulo Freire , [14] new thinking on adult education research, [15] the Civil Rights Movement , [16] South Asian social movements such as the Bhoomi Sena, [3] [17] and key initiatives such as the Participatory Research Network created in and based in New Delhi.

His recommendations to researchers committed to the struggle for justice and greater democracy in all spheres, including the business of science, are useful for all researchers and echo the teaching from many schools of research:. However alternative traditions of PAR, begin with processes that include more bottom-up organising and popular education than were envisaged by Lewin.

PAR strategies to democratize knowledge making and ground it in real community needs and learning [ clarification needed What are these strategies? These principles and the ongoing evolution of PAR have had a lasting legacy in fields ranging from problem solving in the workplace to community development and sustainable livelihoods, education, public health, feminist research and civic engagement. It is important to note that these contributions are subject to many tensions and debates on key issues such as the role of clinical psychology , critical social thinking and the pragmatic concerns of organizational learning in PAR theory and practice.

Labels used to define each approach PAR, critical PAR, action research, psychosociology, sociotechnical analysis, etc. While a common denominator, the combination of participation, action and research reflects the fragile unity of traditions whose diverse ideological and organizational contexts kept them separate and largely ignorant of one another for several decades.

The following review focuses on traditions that incorporate the three pillars of PAR. Closely related approaches that overlap but do not bring the three components together are left out. Applied research , for instance, is not necessarily committed to participatory principles and may be initiated and controlled mostly by experts, with the implication that 'human subjects' are not invited to play a key role in science building and the framing of the research questions.

As in mainstream science, this process "regards people as sources of information, as having bits of isolated knowledge, but they are neither expected nor apparently assumed able to analyze a given social reality".

PAR, in contrast, has evolved from the work of activists more concerned with empowering marginalized peoples than with generating academic knowledge for its own sake. Action research in the workplace took its initial inspiration from Lewin's work on organizational development and Dewey 's emphasis on learning from experience.

Lewin's seminal contribution involves a flexible, scientific approach to planned change that proceeds through a spiral of steps, each of which is composed of 'a circle of planning, action, and fact-finding about the result of the action', towards an organizational 'climate' of democratic leadership and responsible participation that promotes critical self-inquiry and collaborative work. An important offshoot of Tavistock thinking and practise is the sociotechnical systems perspective on workplace dynamics, guided by the idea that greater productivity or efficiency does not hinge on improved technology alone.

Improvements in organizational life call instead for the interaction and 'joint optimization' of the social and technical components of workplace activity. In this perspective, the best match between the social and technical factors of organized work lies in principles of 'responsible group autonomy' and industrial democracy , as opposed to deskilling and top-down bureaucracy guided by Taylor 's scientific management and linear chain of command.

NTL played a central role in the evolution of experiential learning and the application of behavioral science to improving organizations. Process consultation, team building, conflict management, and workplace group democracy and autonomy have become recurrent themes in the prolific body of literature and practice known as organizational development OD.

On the whole, however, science tends to be a means, not an end. Workplace and organizational learning interventions are first and foremost problem-based, action-oriented and client-centred.

Tavistock broke new ground in other ways as well, by meshing general medicine and psychiatry with Freudian and Jungian psychology and the social sciences to help the British army face various human resource problems. This gave rise to a field of scholarly research and professional intervention loosely known as psychosociology, particularly influential in France CIRFIP.

Several schools of thought and 'social clinical' practise belong to this tradition, all of which are critical of the experimental and expert mindset of social psychology. In addition to this humanistic and democratic agenda, psychosociology uses concepts of psychoanalytic inspiration to address interpersonal relations and the interplay between self and group.

It acknowledges the role of the unconscious in social behaviour and collective representations and the inevitable expression of transference and countertransference —language and behaviour that redirect unspoken feelings and anxieties to other people or physical objects taking part in the action inquiry.

The works of Balint, [50] Jaques , [51] and Bion [52] are turning points in the formative years of psychosociology. Key differences between these schools and the methods they use stem from the weight they assign to the analyst's expertise in making sense of group behaviour and views and also the social aspects of group behaviour and affect.

Another issue is the extent to which the intervention is critical of broader institutional and social systems. The use of psychoanalytic concepts and the relative weight of effort dedicated to research, training and action also vary. PAR emerged in the postwar years as an important contribution to intervention and self-transformation within groups, organizations and communities. It has left a singular mark on the field of rural and community development, especially in the Global South.

Tools and concepts for doing research with people, including "barefoot scientists" and grassroots "organic intellectuals" see Gramsci , are now promoted and implemented by many international development agencies, researchers, consultants, civil society and local community organizations around the world.

This has resulted in countless experiments in diagnostic assessment, scenario planning [71] and project evaluation in areas ranging from fisheries [72] and mining [73] to forestry, [74] plant breeding, [75] agriculture, [76] farming systems research and extension, [7] [77] [78] watershed management, [79] resource mapping, [10] [80] [81] environmental conflict and natural resource management, [2] [82] [83] [84] land rights, [85] appropriate technology, [86] [87] local economic development, [88] [89] communication, [90] [91] tourism, [92] leadership for sustainability, [93] biodiversity [94] [95] and climate change.

On the whole, PAR applications in these fields are committed to problem solving and adaptation to nature at the household or community level, using friendly methods of scientific thinking and experimentation adapted to support rural participation and sustainable livelihoods. In education, PAR practitioners inspired by the ideas of critical pedagogy and adult education are firmly committed to the politics of emancipatory action formulated by Freire , [24] with a focus on dialogical reflection and action as means to overcome relations of domination and subordination between oppressors and the oppressed, colonizers and the colonized.

The approach implies that "the silenced are not just incidental to the curiosity of the researcher but are the masters of inquiry into the underlying causes of the events in their world". Community-based participatory research and service-learning are a more recent attempts to reconnect academic interests with education and community development.

Service learning or education is a closely related endeavour designed to encourage students to actively apply knowledge and skills to local situations, in response to local needs and with the active involvement of community members. Collaborative research in education is community-based research where pre-university teachers are the community and scientific knowledge is built on top of teachers' own interpretation of their experience and reality, with or without immediate engagement in transformative action.

PAR has made important inroads in the field of public health, in areas such as disaster relief , community-based rehabilitation , accident prevention, hospital care and drug prevention. Because of its link to radical democratic struggles of the Civil Rights Movement and other social movements in South Asia and Latin America see above , PAR is seen as a threat to their authority by some established elites.

An international alliance university-based participatory researchers, ICPHR, omit the word "Action", preferring the less controversial term "participatory research".

Photovoice is one of the strategies used in PAR and is especially useful in the public health domain. Keeping in mind the purpose of PAR, which is to benefit communities, Photovoice allows the same to happen through the media of photography. Photovoice considers helping community issues and problems reach policy makers as its primary goal. Participatory programs within the workplace involve employees within all levels of a workplace organization, from management to front-line staff, in the design and implementation of health and safety interventions.

Such factors include a better identification of potential barriers and facilitators, a greater willingness to accept interventions than those imposed strictly from upper management, and enhanced buy-in to intervention design, resulting in greater sustainability though promotion and acceptance. Feminist research and women's development theory [] also contributed to rethinking the role of scholarship in challenging existing regimes of power, using qualitative and interpretive methods that emphasize subjectivity and self-inquiry rather than the quantitative approach of mainstream science.

Novel approaches to PAR in the public sphere help scale up the engaged inquiry process beyond small group dynamics. Touraine and others thus propose a 'sociology of intervention' involving the creation of artificial spaces for movement activists and non-activists to debate issues of public concern. In this approach to collaborative inquiry, research is actively assisted by volunteers who form an active public or network of contributing individuals. They extend principles of open-source governance to democratic institutions, allowing citizens to actively engage in wiki-based processes of virtual journalism, public debate and policy development.

In the same spirit, discursive or deliberative democracy calls for public discussion, transparency and pluralism in political decision-making, lawmaking and institutional life. It involves people selected at random from a local or national population who are provided opportunities to question 'witnesses' and collectively form a 'judgment' on the issue at hand. ICTs, open politics and deliberative democracy usher in new strategies to engage governments, scientists, civil society organizations and interested citizens in policy-related discussions of science and technology.

These trends represent an invitation to explore novel ways of doing PAR on a broader scale. Calls for norms of ethical conduct to guide the relationship between researchers and participants are many. Norms in research ethics involving humans include respect for the autonomy of individuals and groups to deliberate about a decision and act on it.

This principle is usually expressed through the free, informed and ongoing consent of those participating in research or those representing them in the case of persons lacking the capacity to decide. Another mainstream principle is the welfare of participants who should not be exposed to any unfavourable balance of benefits and risks with participation in research aimed at the advancement of knowledge, especially those that are serious and probable.

Since privacy is a factor that contributes to people's welfare, confidentiality obtained through the collection and use of data that are anonymous e. Finally, the principle of justice—equal treatment and concern for fairness and equity—calls for measures of appropriate inclusion and mechanisms to address conflicts of interests.

For one thing the people involved are not mere 'subjects' or 'participants'. They act instead as key partners in an inquiry process that may take place outside the walls of academic or corporate science. Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans suggests, PAR requires that the terms and conditions of the collaborative process be set out in a research agreement or protocol based on mutual understanding of the project goals and objectives between the parties, subject to preliminary discussions and negotiations.

While they are legalistic in their genesis, they are usually based on interpersonal relationships and a history of trust rather than the language of legal forms and contracts. Another implication of PAR ethics is that partners must protect themselves and each other against potential risks, by mitigating the negative consequences of their collaborative work and pursuing the welfare of all parties concerned. This does not preclude battles against dominant interests.

Given their commitment to social justice and transformative action, some PAR projects may be critical of existing social structures and struggle against the policies and interests of individuals, groups and institutions accountable for their actions, creating circumstances of danger. On the matter of welfare, empowerment through recognition and 'being heard' may be more important to the research than are privacy and confidentiality.

It is important to strike a balance between allowing privacy and confidentiality, and respect for individuals and groups who wish to be heard and identified for their contribution to research.

The former may be hard to reconcile with PAR. The latter can be shown through proper quoting, acknowledgements, co-authorship, or the granting of intellectual property rights.

By definition, PAR is always a step into the unknown, raising new questions and creating new risks over time. Given its emergent properties and responsiveness to social context and needs, PAR cannot limit discussions and decisions about ethics to the design and proposal phase.

Norms of ethical conduct and their implications may have to be revisited as the project unfolds. PAR offers a long history of experimentation with evidence-based and people-based inquiry, a groundbreaking alternative to mainstream positive science.

As with positivism, the approach creates many challenges [] as well as debates on what counts as participation, action and research. Differences in theoretical commitments Lewinian, Habermasian, Freirean, psychoanalytic, feminist, etc. Ways to better answer questions pertaining to PAR's relationship with science and social history are nonetheless key to its future.

One critical question concerns the problem-solving orientation of engaged inquiry—the rational means-ends focus of most PAR experiments as they affect organizational performance or material livelihoods, for instance. In the clinical perspective of French psychosociology, a pragmatic orientation to inquiry neglects forms of understanding and consciousness that are not strictly instrumental and rational.

Another issue, more widely debated, is scale—how to address broad-based systems of power and issues of complexity , especially those of another development on a global scale. By keeping things closely tied to local group dynamics , PAR runs the risk of substituting small-scale participation for genuine democracy and fails to develop strategies for social transformation on all levels.

Cooptation can lead to highly manipulated outcomes. The role of science and scholarship in PAR is another source of difference. While more clinically oriented, psychosociology in France also emphasizes the distinctive role of formal research and academic work, beyond problem solving in specific contexts.

Given their emphasis on pluralism and living knowledge, many practitioners of grassroots inquiry are critical of grand theory and advanced methods for collaborative inquiry, to the point of abandoning the word "research" altogether, as in participatory action learning. Others equate research with any involvement in reflexive practice aimed at assessing problems and evaluating project or program results against group expectations. As a result, inquiry methods tend to be soft and theory remains absent or underdeveloped.

Practical and theoretical efforts to overcome this ambivalence towards scholarly activity are nonetheless emerging. Participatory Action Research Video Presentation. Working with migrant communities: Handbook of action research: A personal position paper on participatory research: Personal quest for living knowledge. Qualitative Inquiry , 2 1: What is Participatory Action Research? Action Research International, Paper 2. Post on this Paper. Thanks so much for keeping this blog active. I just completed a online seminar for a course that I am taking on adult education in the global context.

One of the concepts discussed in the chapter was Participatory Action Research as a practical approach to social change and development during the past 40 years. The authors post the question, and I included it in my seminar, can PAR be applied in contexts other than agricultural and developing countries? In an effort to build upon the text in our discussion forum, I directed my classmates to this post. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Twitter account.

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Post on this Paper Wikipedia. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here


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Participatory Research Methods: A Methodological Approach in Motion. Jarg Bergold & Stefan Thomas. Prototypes of this kind of research in English-speaking countries include participatory action research (PAR), co-operative inquiry, and participatory evaluation; examples in German-speaking countries are action research and practice research.

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Participatory Action Research (PAR) is a qualitative research methodology option that requires further understanding and consideration. PAR is considered democratic, equitable, liberating, and life-enhancing qualitative inquiry that remains distinct from other qualitative methodologies (Kach & .

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Participatory action research (PAR) differs from most other approaches to public health research because it is based on reflection, data collection, and action that aims to improve health and reduce health inequities through involving the people who, in turn, take actions to improve their own health. Research methodology is a strategy or. These included focus groups and multi stakeholder meetings, participatory inquiry, action research, oral testimonies and story collection as a foundation for collective analysis, photo- digital stories, photovoice, drawing and essay writing competitions, participatory video, and immersions. Learn more about the participatory research methods.

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MethodSpace is a multidimensional online network for the community of researchers, from students to professors, engaged in research methods. Sponsored by SAGE Publishing, a leading publisher of books and journals in research methods, the site is created for students and researchers to network and share research, resources and debates. Participatory Action Research (PAR) introduces a method that is ideal for researchers who are committed to co-developing research programs with people rather than for people. The book provides a history of this technique, its various strands, and the underlying tenets that guide most projects.