Participatory Action Research

Report
PARTICIPATORY ACTION
RESEARCH
Involving Constituents in Social Change Oriented
Research
PARTICIPATORY ACTION RESEARCH:
Method used to involve community residents,
clients, and other constituents in social change
oriented research.
 Participants work with a facilitator to identify a
community problem, develop research
methodology, collect data, and analyze findings.
 The data is then used to make recommendations
about how the problem should be resolved.
 Participants advocate for funding, legislation, or
government action to adopt the findings.
 The end result is to alleviate oppression or
improve community or service quality.

PAR IS CONSIDERED AN ALTERNATIVE TO
QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH IN WHICH THE
RESEARCHER “KNOWS ALL”
ASSUMPTIONS MADE ABOUT THE
PROCESS
 People
who experience the problem are in
the best position to conduct research on
the issue.
 All people can learn basic research skills.
 Participants can establish equal
partnerships with researchers that can be
used to address community problems.
 PAR related activities help empower
members of powerless groups.
Participation in the PAR process is a
critical component of community
interventions.
PAR CAN INCLUDE BOTH QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE
METHODS. IT’S GENERALLY CONSIDERED A SUBTYPE OF
QUALITATIVE RESEARCH BECAUSE:
It incorporates the perceptions of participants
into how the research is conducted and data is
analyzed
 Participants/constitutents are equal partners
with the researcher (as in feminist research).
 It’s focus is social change rather than simply on
the production of new knowledge.
 It helps us understand the experiences and
culture of population groups outside the
dominant culture.

SOCIAL WORKERS ENCOUNTER PARRELATED RESEARCH:
In community organization practice.
 When administering or developing programs that
serve members of marginalized groups.
 When serving as an evaluator or consultant on
community projects or in social service
organizations.
 When using the multi-systems empowerment
approach to practice (see for example, Gutierrez,
Parsons, & Cox, 1998).

PURPOSE OF PARTICIPATORY ACTION
RESEARCH:




The purpose of Participatory Action Research (PAR) is to minimize
power differences between researchers and constituents, increase the
knowledge of participants, and promote social change (Sohng, 1998).
PAR is associated with two aspects of learning theory: Kurt Lewin’s
Action Research (1951) principles (knowledge flows from taking
action) as well as the work of Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the
Oppressed, 1970) in which he described a process of education for
marginalized groups that involved mutual learning among teachers
and students.
The basic assumption of these approaches is that academic research
should be used to reduce the harmful effects of oppression by
involving members of powerless groups in the construction of
knowledge, a critical examination of the world around them, and
action to address social problems (Stringer, 1999).
PAR also draws upon social constructionism and the work of postmodern theorists such as Michel Foucault who maintain that
scientific knowledge often has little relevance in people’s every day
lives, but instead serves to maintain existing institutional
arrangements that limit power to members of economic, social and
political elites (Rodwell, 1998).
ACCORDING TO LEWIN, ACTION LEARNING IS A PROCESS
THAT INVOLVES TAKING ACTION AND REFLECTING ON
THAT ACTION TO GAIN NEW KNOWLEDGE.
PARTICIPATORY ACTION RESEARCH
GENERALLY IS NOT FOCUSED ON AGENCY
OPERATIONS, BUT ADDRESSES A SOCIAL
PROBLEM THAT AFFECTS CONSTITUENCY
GROUP MEMBERS.
STRINGER DESCRIBES THIS APPROACH AS ONE
IN WHICH:

Knowledge acquisition/production proceeds as a
collective process, engaging people who have
previously been the subjects of research in the
process of defining and redefining the corpus of
understanding on which their community or
organizational life is based. As they collectively
investigate their own situation, stakeholders
build a consensual vision of their life-world.
Community-based action research results not
only in a collective vision but also in a sense of
community. It operates at the intellectual level as
well as at social, cultural, political, and emotional
levels. (p.11)
ADVANTAGES OF METHODS
 Increases
feelings of participant ownership of
process/programs.
 Increases likelihood that data will be used.
 Increases likelihood that the resulting
program or intervention will meet needs of
stakeholders and be culturally appropriate.
 Participants develop skills and confidence.
They gain knowledge and information and
thus become empowered.
DISADVANTAGES OF METHOD
Distrust and conflict among participants.
 Length of time needed to develop consensus around
goals, mission, and methods.
 The need for training around research methods, data
collection, and analysis.
 The need for skilled facilitation, coordination, and
follow-up on task completion.
 Money and an organizational structure are needed to
do all these things.
 The group must be able to apply findings in order to
achieve an outcome

THE INABILITY OF THE PARTICIPANTS TO
REACH A CONSENSUS IN A TIMELY MANNER CAN
RESULT IN AN INCOMPLETE PROJECT, A
PROJECT IN WHICH DATA ANALYSIS AND
CONCLUSIONS ARE BASED ON INCOMPLETE
EVIDENCE, OR ONE IN WHICH A HANDFUL OF
PARTICIPANTS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE
PRODUCTION OF THE FINAL REPORT.
(CHAMBERS ET AL., 1992).
THE PAR PROCESS REQUIRES A TEAM LEADER OR
FACILITATOR WITH SOME EXPERTISE IN GROUP
PROCESSES AND RESEARCH. THE FACILITATOR MAY
BE:
A university based researcher
 A social worker or community organizer
 A paid consultant
 A member of the constituency group who has
previous training/experience with the process

CONDITIONS THAT MUST BE MET FOR A
SUCCESSFUL PAR PROJECT
Trusting relationships among members must be
developed in order for a consensus about project
goals, data collection methods, an analysis of
findings, and recommendations can be reached.
 Training about research methods, data collection,
and analysis must be provided for the
participants.
 Establishing a good organizational structure to
support the work team
 The provision of strong administrative support
and adequate resources for the project
 A skilled facilitator to coordinate the process.

SMITH (1997) DESCRIBES A PAR MODEL IN WHICH AN
EXTERNAL RESEARCHER/FACILITATOR USES A FIVESTAGE PROCESS FOR GOAL ATTAINMENT:
1)
2)
3)
4)
5)
The researcher collects information about the
community and its problems.
The researcher uses dialogue to engage the group
in a process of problem-identification.
Group members develop an understanding of the
social, economic, and political context or origins of the
problem. They identify questions that they want
answered.
The group identifies theories about problem origins,
designs data collection methods and generates
possible solutions to address the problem.
The group takes action.
SKILLS NEEDED FOR FACILITATION
Interpersonal skills such as engagement.
 Cultural competency
 Group facilitation and consensus building
 Research skills
 Knowledge of service delivery systems,
community processes, power, and economic &
political systems.

TYPES OF EVALUATION APPROACHES THAT
INVOLVE ORGANIZATION CONSTITUENTS
INCLUDE:
Participatory Action Research
 Empowerment Evaluation
 Self-evaluation

DIFFERENCES
IN APPROACHES ARE:
Participatory
Action
Research
Empowerment
Evaluation
Self-Evaluation
Role of
Researcher
Consultant;
Partner with
participants
Consultant;
works for
participants
Consultant;
works for
agency/funder
Purpose
Social Change
SelfDetermination
Evaluate
Agency
Services
Outcome
Alleviate
Oppression
Increases
Participant
Skills and
Control
Improved
Service Quality

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