Participatory Action Research (PAR)

IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation

International Association of Public Participation, Spectrum of Public Participation, poster.

Created by the International Association of Public Participation, this chart helps scaffold the process for increasing meaningful engagement by addressing the goals, public communication, and example participation techniques. IAP2 is an international organization for knowledge sharing and capacity building of best practices for public participation. This straightforward graphic is based off of the Arnstein’s ladder of public participation and includes the categories of: inform, consult, involve, collaborate, empower. While this graphic does not provide any practical guidelines, it presents a clear framework for thinking about the work of public participation and can be a useful reference point.

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What do we mean by decolonizing research strategies?

Zavala, M. (2013). What do we mean by decolonizing research strategies? Lessons from decolonizing, Indigenous research projects in New Zealand and Latin America. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, and Society 2 (1): 55-71.

This methodology paper draws on previous texts about decolonizing methodologies and the author’s own experiences as an Indigenous researcher and activist to argue that decolonization is less about method and more about providing space for Indigenous people and voices. Zavala examines several grassroots Participatory Action Research (PAR) projects, which he describes as spaces that occlude colonial, academic decision making practices. He then contrasts the PAR research methods advocated for by Tuhiwai Smith with those that he engages with in Latin America. While the two approaches to PAR engage in very different, traditional vs non-traditional, research methods, they have similar decolonial outcomes in that they place Indigenous sovereignty at the centre of decision-making practices. He concludes by stating that decolonial research is not contingent on a given method but requires always honouring the perspectives and interests of the communities and individuals being studied. Zavala’s analysis suggests that it is possible for settler and university-affiliated researchers to engage in decolonial work. How this is done must be decided through ongoing collaboration and consultation with communities and individual research participants.

Beyond Consensus: Improving Collaborative Planning and Management

Margerum, R. D., & others. (2011). Beyond Consensus: Improving Collaborative Planning and Management, MIT Press: Cambridge Mass.

This book highlights severali mportant parts of conducting a consensus meeting which is getting the right people into the group, how the participants are collaborating, and effective product generated from consensus.These chapters go in to great detail on each of these topics and cite numerous case studies as evidence of what to do, and what not to do.  This book is useful because it shows real world examples of many of the problems that can arise from convening a consensus meeting.  It illustrates that the consensus meeting starts long before the group sits down to collaborate and its results may effect projects for years after.  The case studies are from a range of governmental management and the focus of this book is how to have consensus meeting have a tangible effect on management and policy.

Facilitation as Action Research in the Moment

Mackewn, J. (2008). Facilitation as Action Research in the Moment. The Sage handbook of action research: Participative inquiry and practice, 615-628

This article goes into detail about one key factor in a successful consensus meeting, the facilitator.  The author lists necessary skills for facilitation and describes the process of facilitation as Action Research in which the group influences how the facilitator works, navigating through preconceived notions of individuals, communities, or organizations, awareness of the wider context of the group, and managing group energy.  It lays out how facilitator’s behavior changes as the group develops.  It highlights the difficulties of facilitation and outlines what is required of a great facilitator.  The role of a researcher in a consensus meeting is that of a facilitator and this is an important read for anyone attempting facilitation using a Participatory/activist Research methodology.

Creating alternative research methods: Learning to do it by doing it.

Freire, P. (1982). Creating alternative research methods: Learning to do it by doing it. Creating knowledge: A monopoly, 29-37.

This paper focuses on methods of participatory research that have been drawn from work done in Australia. The author cautions against overreliance on one set of principles while others are also relevant; therefore he lists what principles of participatory research are and what they are not. There is a diversity of disciplines where participatory research is applied so participatory research might mean different things to different people. A key feature in action research is that those affected by a certain problem have the primary responsibility of deciding on the kind of action to be taken to hopefully address the problem. The difference between ‘participation’ and ‘involvement’ is also discussed as something researchers intending to use participatory action research approach must consider. The author argues that there is more to participatory research other than learning; it also involves knowledge production and action using new ways of relating to each other to make reform possible. The methods that participatory action researchers use such as case studies are described. Five things which do not compose participatory research are listed to help researchers when choosing their methodology. Practical examples of the principles in action are also included.

Negotiating the challenges of participatory action research: Relationships, power, participation, change and credibility

Grant, J., Nelson, G., & Mitchell, T. (2008). Negotiating the challenges of participatory action research: Relationships, power, participation, change and credibility. In P. Reason & H. Bradbury (eds). The SAGE Handbook of Action Research. SAGE Publications.

Abstract: In this chapter we explore some of the issues that researchers and participants face when engaging in participatory action research (PAR). We suggest negotiation processes and skills that may be helpful in co-creating meaningful research accounts that arise from the lived experiences of communities as well as the subjectivity of ourselves as researchers. We reflect on power issues, self-reflexivity and the potential to develop credible accounts that can be transformative and transgressive. We consider PAR challenges, negotiation processes, and identified skills for building relationships, acknowledging and sharing power, encouraging participation, making change, and establishing credible accounts. As we discuss each area of challenge, we present vignettes from our own research that serve as examples of the challenges and possible strategies for achieving the goals of participatory research.

Photovoice ethics: Perspectives from Flint photovoice

Wang, C. C., & Redwood-Jones, Y. A. (2001). Photovoice ethics: Perspectives from Flint photovoice. Health education & behavior, 28(5), 560-572.

Abstract: Photovoice is a participatory health promotion strategy in which people use cameras to document their health and work realities. As participants engage in a group process of critical reflection, they may advocate for change in their communities by using the power of their images and stories to communicate with policy makers. In public health initiatives from China to California, community people have used photovoice to carry out participatory needs assessment, conduct participatory evaluation, and reach policy makers to improve community health. This article begins to address ethical issues raised by the use of photovoice: the potential for invasion of privacy and how that may be prevented; issues in recruitment, representation, participation, and advocacy; and specific methodological techniques that should be used to minimize participants’ risks and to maximize benefits. The authors describe lessons learned from the large-scale Flint Photovoice involving youth, adults, and policy makers.