Research is something that we all do on a daily basis. We observe patterns within our communities, ask questions of our neighbours, read articles and watch news about our city. We analyse the world around us and talk to our family and friends about what works and what doesn’t work. Participatory Action Research (PAR) provides a framework for communities to analyse and document these everyday actions and allows community members to create data and evidence that will strengthen their own communities. PAR also allows community members to identify and become the experts about the issues they face in the communities and they live in, and we work in.
I support civil society, rights holder organisations and non-government organisations through the process of conceptualising, designing, implementing, producing and disseminating Participatory Action Research projects. Through my work partnering with community members, grassroots organisations, and INGO’s, I have developed a range of trainings, tools and tips to enable community members to become more actively involved in the research process.
My principal purpose of doing Participatory Action Research is to change systems and structures to improve the lives of under-represented communities. The under-represented community members are not subjects on whom research is conducted but rather the subjects of the inquiry who set the agenda, participate in the data collection and analysis, and control the use of the outcomes, including deciding what future actions to take or directions to go.
I have led successful PAR projects in communities made up of Women, People with disabilities (including people with sight impaired and blind folks, deaf communities, communities made up of people with physical disabilities, including people with cerebral palsy, have acquired disabilities due to accidents, and disabilities due to poverty e.g., stunting). I have also led Participatory Action Research with communities made up of people with diverse gender identities.
My Participatory Action Research Principles
The purpose of Participatory Action Research is structural change: The purpose of this research methodology is to bring about structural changes that under-represented communities identify as critical to their enjoyment of their human rights.
Amplifies under-represented communities: The Participatory Action Research methodology gives voice to under-represented community members as the experts and authors of their own lives. It strategically places them as researchers and experts.
Owned by community: PAR decisions are made by the community who are the stakeholders of the research project.
Takes an intersectional approach to identity and experiences of discrimination, exclusion and marginalisation: recognising the diversity of people’s experiences, identities and power.
Aims to shift power: Participatory Action Research can be used to reconstruct traditional power imbalances such as that of researcher / subject and also aims to challenge and shift sources of personal, political and structural power.
Fosters movement building / collective action: The research process itself should be seen as a collective process that strengthens solidarity but in addition the research aims to strengthen under-represented community members to work collectively for long-term structural change
Builds capability of all: Participatory Action Research always involves capability building but also recognises that capability building and learning is a collective, political action of all the stakeholders involved.
Free prior informed consent of all participants is prioritised in Participatory Action Research.
Safety, care and solidarity with participants is essential.
PAR in Practice
For examples of some work I have undertaken in Eastern Indonesia with Yayasan Plan Indonesia (YPII) working with 5 groups made up of women and people with disabilities, you can find my conference paper, “Participatory Action Research (PAR) in Practice” here – co-authored with Lee Leong.
Voices At The Table
To view and download the WASH Participatory Action Research toolkit I created from my work in Eastern Indonesia, see the Voices At The Table Toolkit. This toolkit follows the project cycle, and is packed full of participatory activities, and tips for greater inclusion.