Participatory Action Research (PAR)

Participatory Action Research (PAR) is a process of generating collective knowledge that is then utilized for changing a specific social condition impacting the most marginalized members of society. PAR methodology validates the knowledge of the most oppressed groups and allows these groups to enhance their knowledge and use it for transforming their conditions of oppression.

PVI views PAR as a process initiated and conducted by the people directly affected by the research topic. PAR research methods are based on the principles of popular education—everyone involved brings expertise to the equation that is of equal value to the process. It is important for the knowledge generated to be useful to research team participants and to their communities. Eventually the knowledge generated will lead to action that will address the problem.

PAR enhances the knowledge of community members with the goal of improving their lives. PAR engages community members in a process of deeply studying and analyzing one or more pressing issues. Participants are committed to take action toward solving the specific issues addressed. Those involved must accurately and fairly represent their communities, and have a voice in these communities. They must also possess the ability to engage community members in their action plans.

Compared to PAR, traditional research is more in the hands of scholars and other professionals who typically decide on the core research topics on their own. Traditional researchers also tend to establish hierarchical relations with members of the communities observed, who are viewed as subjects to be studied and not agents of change.

In traditional research, academics have total ownership of the knowledge resulting from the research, even though—in most cases—the knowledge gained is enhanced by information from the participants observed or surveyed. In traditional research, there is an obvious gap between those who research and those who are researched. In light of these distinctions, we also recognized that both methodologies can function synergistically, provided that equal control of the process is maintained and that equity is established among those with formal knowledge and those with knowledge based on life experience.

Pan Valley Institute, a project of the American Friends Service Committee
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