Participatory Action Reasearch

Action Research
San Diego Nutrition & Physical Activity Collaborative Forum:
Community Based Participatory Research: Building
Capacity of Communities and Organizations to Engage
in Authentic Partnerships
William T. Oswald, Ph.D.
[email protected]
September 2012
What is Participatory Action
All research is the gathering of information in
a systematic and objective way
Academic Research:
To Understand
Participatory Action Research:
To Inform action
In this presentation PAR is seen as a
community organizing & leadership
development tool
PAR & Public Policy
Truly Understanding Policy requires looking
at it from three angles:
1. What is the intent?
2. How is it to be implemented?
3. How is it to be received?
The voice of the recipient is rarely included
in policy analysis
PAR is a powerful way to include the
recipients’ voice in the policy dialogue
PAR is Political
Politics is the art of translating
the ideal into the real
Who gets to decide what the “Ideal” is?
Who gets to decide how that “Ideal” is
translated into the “Real” – Public Policy
PAR challenges the status quo
by bringing a new voice to the
Purpose of PAR
To Create Authentic Demand
". . . resident voices at decision-making
tables, with competence and confidence
to participate fully in the deliberations
and who understand that they are
connected to constituencies in their
neighborhoods to whom they are
Core Questions
Who picks the issue?
Who creates the questions?
Who asks the questions?
Who answers the questions?
Who gives meaning to the answers?
Who owns the knowledge?
The earlier and the stronger the role of the “community of
interest” in the process the more empowering the process
and the greater the capacity developed
PAR allows those usually left out of the public dialogue to
have their voice heard
Geology of Community
Large institutions that have investments in the community but are not part
of the community - colleges, universities, hospitals, large foundations,
some federal and state programs, etc.
Local county and municipal government, some foundations, and some
state and federal programs, etc
Nonprofit agencies that have programs within the community. These
organizations are typically referred to as "community-based
Community-owned institutions as well as the unorganized members of the
community. It is a broad band in that ranges from relatively large, stable
organizations to small, unfunded community efforts and activities. This
layer also includes those residents who live below the Clay Line.
What do we mean by “Clay Line?”
Not a scientific term
Think of community as garden. On the top the soil is soft and
easy to work with. Eventually, however, you dig down deep
enough to reach the clay line. The soil at that point is like
cement and very difficulty to work with.
Below the Clay Line
Essentially they are people whose present situation and status in
society present significant barriers to their engagement in the
public dialogue, e.g., people living near or below the poverty
line, people who are disabled, immigrants, refuges, victims of
domestic violence, etc.
People living below the clay line are rarely
part of the public dialogue
• Can’t afford the price of admission
• Out of the reach of most pollsters
• Underrepresented in the Census
SPIN Study: 12 women living near of below the federal poverty line
interviewed over 180 households on hunger and the safety net
Access to Healthcare Study: 23 women refugees from about 6
countries surveyed over 200 women refugees from East African countries
Crawford Community Assessment: 14 students and parents surveyed
100 youth and 100 adults in the Crawford area concerning health, safety,
youth, and education
You can’t just do it. Requires an organized
“Community of Interest”
 Community of Interest runs the program –
not the researcher
 Community moves at different pace than
“professional” and/or “academic” world
 Researcher has different role: teaching the
skill, guiding and facilitating the process
 Integrating a different perspective when
deliverables are set
FORM a “Community of Interest”
Crawford/Mann Community Collaborative – Bring an organized
group of students, parents, residents into the Collaborative
City Heights Hope – The cultural gap between parents and children
DEVELOP Leaders of a “Community of Interest”
SPIN – Conducted over 100 community presentations – met with
each of the five members of Board of Supervisors
CREATE Plan of Action
All three studies have led to focused campaigns: SPIN on food
stamps, City Heights Hope on interpretation services in healthcare,
Crawford on increasing parent involvement
Real Politics
PAR provides legitimacy to community voice
Community & agencies define problems differently
Agencies see need for service. Community sees needs for resources
Community not always welcome at the table
There can be an uncomfortable relationship between constituent
groups and nonprofit and government agencies
Power is viewed as finite
increase in community power is a loss of power to another
All systems resist change
The bigger the system, the greater the resistance
Meet about issue - describe experience
Confirm Consensus on description
Consensus on
Is experience unique or common?
Introduce: Reliability, Validity, Generalizability
Generate questions to ask in order to answer question #1
Come to consensus on questions and format
Identify source of sample and type of sampling
Workshop on interviewing
Pilot testing of survey
Finalize instrument
Collect data
Monitor process & sample
Data set
Adjust process as necessary
Present data to group
Introduce statistics as appropriate [e.g., mean, median,
mode, correlation, content analysis, etc.]
Develop the meaning of data, i.e., interpret the data
Draw conclusions from the data
Develop consensus on set of recommendations
Identify institution (s) with authority to respond to
Present the findings and recommendations to the broader
community - assessing for consensus on the issue - and
engaging them in the issue
Develop and implement strategy/campaign to press for
carrying out of recommendations
Assess impact of campaign
Identify next steps
Evaluate &
No one has the corner on TRUTH. Reality is a
social construction and PAR brings a new and
important voice to the table.
Where you stand depends on where you sit –
policy does not impact everyone equally.
Systems don’t change from the inside. The
law of inertia holds: “Things in motion tend
to stay in motion. Things at rest tend to stay
at rest.” PAR is about bringing change.
Democracy is slow, sloppy and full of drama.

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