Centre for Employment Innovation’s Key Learnings (2017 – 2022)

Participatory Action Research

Participatory Action Research
What is Participatory Action Research (PAR)?
  • Participatory action research is a framework for conducting research and generating knowledge based on a belief that those who are going to be most affected by the results of a research project should be the ones taking the lead in designing and implementing it.  
  • PAR is community-led research, as opposed to community-based research, and involves the pursuit of social change and the democratization of the knowledge process.  
  • The term action refers to the active involvement of participants, and the actions taken by participants during and after a PAR process. It also refers to practical, applied research conducted with a specific goal of problem solving. Its purpose is also to bring about change and to understand what produces change and what does not.
  • In a PAR process, community members who are directly affected by the challenge being addressed (e.g., lack of activities for youth, housing shortages, lack of access to food, etc.) become collaborative researchers who either work alongside external researchers, or lead / conduct an action-research project themselves.
  • PAR follows a cyclical process of planning, action and reflection, and evaluation: 

What are the main features of Participatory Action Research?
  • The research is carried out by or with the people concerned.
  • The researcher is committed to the people and to their control of the analysis.
  • The research begins with a concrete problem identified by the participants themselves. 
  • There is a shared authority between external researchers (if involved) and community participants 
  • The research proceeds to investigate the underlying causes of the problem so that the participants can themselves go about addressing these causes with external support, if necessary. 
  • The relationship between researchers and stakeholders is built on respect, trust, and knowledge sharing. 
    What is the role of external researchers in PAR?
    • PAR requires the researcher to gain access and an in-depth understanding of the community of interest 
    • Researchers use any prior knowledge or insights they may have of the causes influencing the problem being addressed to engage in a democratic dialogue with participants.  
    • Researchers value and prioritize the integration of participants’ opinions and experiences while giving them decision-making power through processes of collaboration, co-learning, and capacity building.  
    • Researchers play the role of facilitators to help people in communities and organizations to identify the underlying causes of the problem as well as how to address the issue.
    What are the benefits of PAR?
    • PAR supports awareness within communities about a current situation and provides the tools needed to take action to create change. 
    • Community members lead the research and its outcomes to make changes in their own communities in ways that are responsive to cultural and community values. 
    • PAR is reciprocal, not extractive; those that benefit are the members of the community itself, not just the researcher, if external. 
    • PAR challenges the traditional Western distinction between those who produce new knowledge and those who might benefit from or be affected (positively or negatively) by that knowledge, as it involves the full and active participation of the community in the entire research process.
    • The researcher plays the role of an active participant in the research process.  
      What is Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR)?
      • YPAR is a form of participatory action research that is designed and conducted by youth leaders, typically working in collaboration with adult partners. 
      • While YPAR employs similar methods and approaches as adult-led forms of PAR, adult partners usually provide guidance and support to the youth researchers leading the research process. 
      • YPAR is a process that believes in the potential of youth and views them as valuable experts.
      • YPAR recognizes that youth voices are important for building knowledge and developing solutions to social problems.
      • Through YPAR, youth engage in leadership, critical thinking and problem solving to address their target issue. 
        What are the benefits of YPAR?
        • Youth gain valuable practical skills and become empowered as social change agents.  
        • Youth can be essential in developing culturally appropriate research and dissemination tools as well as “youth friendly” approaches to data collection.
        • Communities benefit from an increased capacity to foster intergenerational relationships and youth leaders. 
        • Youth can offer new perspectives and ideas as they bring their own realities and innovations to the research process. 
        • Increases youths’ confidence in their ability to empower community to make positive change.
        • Enhances youths’ self-efficacy and provides them with the opportunity to be role models to other youth in the community. 
        • Youth can apply the skills and knowledge gained through participation in a YPAR project to other areas of their lives.  
        • The YPAR process supports youth and adults/community members to build honest and respectful relationships with one another.