Scaling up: Large scale participatory projects

One of the challenges for participatory research is how to involve large numbers of people.  More often than not, however,  participatory projects are focused on a single group because of resource constraints. This makes Geoff Mead’s* experience all the more important – a researcher responsible for setting up and coordinating a project with over 20 participatory groups.

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The importance of working on the inside

At a recent conference on Qualitative Research methods I asked a speaker about whether PAR ultimately required a researcher to already be an accepted member of the community contemplating research. The response was that this is the ideal situation and in their experience participatory methods are most effective when the researcher has built strong relationships and trust and this can often take many years. Not having many years to work with (!) I decided to investigate further what some refer to as ‘insider action research’ – where researchers are complete members of the organization or community – to understand its particular advantages and its possible drawbacks.

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Participatory research: Power and Problems

Getting to grips with “what is participatory action research” requires considering what we mean by the term “participatory” and how it is different to other forms of research. Andrea Cornwall and Rachel Jewkes* explore this theme within a health context and make the case that participation is a feature of most research. They argue that what distinguishes participatory research from conventional research is not primarily about methods or theory but concerns the “location of power in the research process”. What does this mean? Continue reading