Mixing it up: Participation and Qualitative Research

Having made a commitment to a participatory approach it is often assumed that the methods will neatly slot into place. The reality, however, is that different methods have different effects to both foster and limit participation as Sonia Ospina and her colleagues found.  Continue reading


The PAR balancing act

The issue of control – the way a PAR project is run and managed – seems to be a practical dilemma for many PAR researchers.  Andrew Sense* gives an insight into the difficulties he faced in a PAR process involved in help employees in an Australian mine participate with an organizational change programme.  His work with a small project team exposed him to the challenge of wanting to participate in the context but also to control the process to meet his research needs. Continue reading

PAR & Organizations

iStock_000003565068XSmall A quick scan of the resources on PAR shows that it is applied in a wide variety of settings from large-scale community projects to small teams working in an organization. How the setting interacts with the goals and actions of a PAR project is explored by Jenny Cameron*. She proposes that the relationship of a PAR project to an organization influences its key characteristics and its particular challenges.

Cameron puts forward three types of PAR:

  1. PAR focused on challenging organizations;
  2. PAR conducted for organizations;
  3. PAR conducted with organizations.

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Criticisms of PAR

Many of the writers using PAR explain how their research challenges and reveals the limitations of science that is based on a positivistic premise. James Frideres*, provides a highly critical response. He argues that participatory research is not research at all and states that it can not only mislead participants but is also non-beneficial to their communities.

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PAR: A theory of possibility in Belfast and Connecticut

Probably one of the best books I have read so far on PAR is this latest book by Alice McIntyre*. In the hour it takes to read it is possible to gain theoretical and practical insights into PAR as McIntyre draws on her experience of two PAR projects – one with women in the Monument Road community of Belfast and the other with students in an inner-city school in the US.

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PAR in Organizations: A Small Business study

I am fascinated in exploring how PAR might be applied within organizations and outside its traditional domains of development, education and health. What does PAR look like within, for example, a business? One example is seen in the work of Chris Street and Darren Meister* who used PAR in helping a small business manage change.

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What is Participatory Action Research?

According to Yoland Wadsworth*, who tackles this question head on, Participatory Action Research (PAR) is not a specialist technique but a form of social research that is “conscious of its underlying assumptions, and collectivist nature, its action consequences and its driving values”. Continue reading