PARTICIPATORY RESEARCH Arpita Christian
A way of collecting information for organizing that honors, centers, and reflects the experiences of people most directly affected by issues in our communities. • www.incite-national.org It evolved as an alternative system of knowledge production by challenging the premise of conventional social science research methodology. The premise is that social science researchers can approach research sites in a neutral, objective, & value-free manner. Instead, PR recognized average people as Researchers themselves, in pursuit of answers to the questions of their daily struggle & survival. Meaning & Definitions
PR is a way of learning how to explain a particular social world by working with the people who live in it, to construct, test, & improve theories about it, so they can better control the circumstances of their lives - Elden & Levin, 1991 Meaning & Definitions…..
PR usually defines research inquiry which involve, • Some form of collaboration between researches & the researched. • A reciprocal process in which both parties educate each other. • A focus on th production of local knowledge to improve interventions or professional practices. Meaning & Definitions…..
Participatory research is ‘research identified, conducted, monitored and evaluated by local people not normally part of the conventional research community’. Participatory Research (PR) is a type of research in which the individuals who are the focus of the study participate as research team members with professional researchers in all research activities.
Allows participation of community being researched in research process (e.g. developing research question; choosing methodology; analyzing results) Good way to ensure research does not simply reinforce prejudices and presumptions of researcher Good for raising awareness in community and developing appropriate action plans Underlying assumption is that ordinary or oppressed people are knowledgeable about their social realities & are capable of articulating this knowledge. Concept…….
Fairly new approach to doing research Doing research WITH people rather than ON THEM (Kirby, 2000) Involvement of people goes beyond mere participation Acknowledges that people are experts in their own lives & experiences - therefore, they should help to define the research questions & be involved in interpreting the findings Improves the quality of information as the research participant opens up more easily to a peer researcher Enhances the self-esteem & research skills of the researchers …….Concept
Participatory research recognized average people as researchers themselves, in pursuit of answers to the questions of their daily struggle and survival. Emergence of Participatory Research (PR)
The discourse on participatory research needs to be understood in a historical and humanitarian perspective. By the late 1950s and the early 1960s, the research paradigm reflected North American and European models of research, which derived from empiricism and positivism, and paid rigorous attention to instrument construction, as well as statistical precision and replicability. Participatory research, as alternative perspectives on research methodology, grew out of a reaction to approaches developed in North America and Europe.
Participatory research attempted to find ways of uncovering knowledge that worked better in societies. It grew from the practice of adult educators in the countries in the geographic South, particularly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and their critique of classical research methodology. These adult educators working with oppressed people realized that rise of specialization, and professional expertise had lead to the devaluation of both popular knowledge and alternative systems of knowledge production.
In early 1960s Latin American social scientists, stimulated in part by the success of the Cuban revolution, began exploring more committed forms of research. Paulo Freire and his colleagues in Latin America developed widely influential concepts for adult education among the urban and rural poor. He developed a theoretical framework, which shared the basic premise of adult education that adults should have control over the content and form of their education.
His dialogic approach to adult education engages individuals in critical analysis and organized action to improve their situations. In these dialogues, educators and “students” move toward a critical consciousness of the forces of oppression and the possibilities for liberation. Building on the premise that ‘knowledge is power’, the participatory research approach assisted socially marginalized people to critically investigate their reality, analyze it, and then undertake collective action to bring about constructive changes in their lives.
A visit by Paulo Freire to Tanzania in 1971 was a stimulus to many social scientists. During the seventies, Participatory Action Research (PAR) gained impetus from Fals Borda’s work with grassroots groups in Columbia.
Recognition of relationship between class position and unequal distribution of wealth and power could be found in the early work of Frederick Engels with the working classes of Manchester. In Switzerland, researchers in curriculum development adopted methodologies from political research to suit their needs. Examples of Participatory and Action-oriented research in Europe and North America :
In Canada, methods of evaluation along action research lines for community development work were developed. • In the Netherlands, the National Institute for Adult Education pioneered in participatory research through its evaluation of the British adult literacy.
PR may at times appear identical to action research in the use of methodology; there are two significant ways in which PR is different. First, the ideological stance and emphasis on making the researcher’s value-premises explicit are generally not mentioned in the action research approach. Second, action research is at times being undertaken without the participation and control of the actors in the situation. In essence, then, action research becomes another method in the exclusive control of the social researcher (Tandon 2005). Difference between action research & pr
Initial motivation of PR As PR is initiated in the context of the actual reality, which the have-nots intend to change, an existing problem provides the initial motivation for engaging in the research process. They may or may not use the services of external experts. • Extent & Nature of People’s Participation Participation of people is quite widespread. They take part in the methodology of data collection, analysis of data, planning, & taking action. In the initial phase it may be less, but it increases as the process moves on. Features of PR…….
Emphasis on Qualitative Method of Data Collection Attempts to reduce or eliminate the limitations of classical research by emphasizing on qualitative & factual methods. It stresses inter-personal communication among different parties & demands clarification of the motives of external party, if any. • Focus on Collective Analysis It is always ‘collective’ in nature; the process requires groups of people to engage together. The most important step in this context is collective analysis of a given situation. …….Features of PR
Networking among the Have-Nots Many marginalized people especially in India are unorganized & isolated. PR brings such persons together through collective sharing, analysis and action that generate strong connections between them. Over a period of time, these connections grow into organizations of the ‘have-nots’. • PR as a Learning Experience The process of PR is an educative experience. People involved in the situation become aware & more knowledgeable through their engagement, methods of knowing and analysis, situation & possible way to change that situation. …….Features of PR
PR as Collective Action for Change PR is a way of taking collective action for bringing about 3 types of change, viz. • Development of critical consciousness of both researcher & participants; • Improvement of the lives of those involved in the research process; and • Transformation of fundamental societal structures & relationships. …….Features of PR
EXAMPLES OF PARTICIPATORY RESEARCH FINDINGS AND ACTION FOR FOREST USERS GROUPS IN NEPAL
Problem : Harvesting regimes This example shows the use of participatory research in obtaining greater benefits from the community forest through improved forest management. Information collection As a result of household surveys, PRAs with groups of men and women at a hamlet level, and simple forest inventory the following findings were revealed: • Community forests were found to contribute little to the supply of forest products for meeting FUG household requirements (because the FUG rules did not permit much harvesting). •
Considerable quantities of products were found to be available in the forest and could potentially be utilised. Neither the FUG committee, nor the FUG members, had any clear concept of how existing forest could be better utilised to increase output of products. The fear of ‘opening’ the forest relates to the possibilities of renewed destruction due to unsystematic cutting, or subsequent negative response from Forest Department staff.
The activity, identified in the action plan as a means to address these issues, focussed on the creation of a series of managed research ‘plots’ with different levels of harvesting, within the community forest. This activity was supported by visits by FUG members to other FUGs that were already more actively managing their forest. Planning
The actual number and type of cutting regimes adopted in the plots varied according to the FUG requirements and the forest type. Essentially, a number of treatments were adopted involving removal of different numbers of tree stems from a defined area. Quantity of products removed as well as before- and after-harvest stocking, was also recorded. Implementation
Data (unreplicated) from the plots were entered into simple software to generate pictorial charts for sharing with the FUG members. In addition, the forest plots provided a visual example of the impact of different harvesting regimes over a period of time. Monitoring and review
Power Sharing PR involves equal participation by the research constituents with the professional researchers. It means that the course of the project from conception to implementation of action steps involves collaboration of both the professionals and the constituents. The decisions about research are taken by the team together & not alone by the researcher. • Mutual Respect for Experience & Expertise The researcher & the constituents each have a unique & equally important contribution. Professionals bring their knowledge of the project & research process. The constituents bring their unique understanding of the experience of the problems they are facing. Both are important & complimentary to each other. Values (McTaggart, 1991)
Informed Decision Making Success of PR depends on informed group of stakeholders. The decisions in PR are based on the factual information that is known to all its stakeholders and shared by them. • Maximum Involvement Professionals should be cautious about carving out areas that remain exclusively in their province. As much as possible, the research team should be brought into all areas of research planning, administration, implementation, and completion. Maximum involvement necessarily implies shared responsibility. Values….
PR reflects a clear & coherent common agenda among stakeholders and contributes to partnership building. PR builds a capacity for innovation by including stakeholders in joint enquiry & co-development of new resource management regimes. PR addresses & integrates the complexities & dynamics of change in human & natural resource systems & processes, including local understanding of these. PRINCIPLES OF PARTICIPATORY RESEARCH Ashby, Vernooy & McDougall, 2003)
PR applies the ‘triangulation principle’. It combines multiple sources of information & methods, & links together various knowledge worlds through participatory learning & joint enquiry. Monitoring & evaluation of participation & the research process occur according to agreed codes of conduct & standards of research practice. Power & risk sharing are conscious research strategies. PRINCIPLES OF PARTICIPATORY RESEARCH Ashby, Vernooy & McDougall, 2003)
PR is based on iterative learning, feedback loops & two-way sharing of information. Relationships among partners are founded on mutual respect, accountability & joint decision-making. PRINCIPLES OF PARTICIPATORY RESEARCH Ashby, Vernooy & McDougall, 2003)
By Hagey, Hart, Bond, Israel, Fawcett, Sherman A high degree of political awareness & knowledge of one’s own perspective. Emotional stability which underlies a high degree of tolerance for complexity, unpredictability & conflict. Excellent group process, skills & commitment to equality of relationship. Versality Attributes of researcher & participants for success & harmony during research process:
In Orissa, India, people have suffered for years under the power of moneylenders to whom they had mortgaged their fruit trees on which they had to survive. Slowly, through the influence of Participatory Research people realized that the law did not bind them to these moneylenders. It is not merely this knowledge that freed them, but the fact that they acquired it together in a group. The process of learning was one of reflection on their situation and the realization of their strength in unity. This slow reflection and realization of their strength helped them to stand up to the money-lenders, free themselves from their clutches and eventually gain ownership of their trees. Source: Tandon (2005) A Case-study
Refined capacities: The active participation of ordinary people/ oppressed enhances self-confidence about their capacities to analyze the situation and develop solutions. Outcomes of PR
Appropriation of new knowledge: The ordinary people/oppressed learn to appropriate, incorporate and reinterpret the knowledge produced by the dominant system for their use. New knowledge is built on the existing knowledge. As people begin to appreciate what they already know, they are more open to seek new information. This desire to seek new knowledge is enhanced if it is done in the context of concrete problems that the people are facing. People are motivated to create and use new knowledge whenever they see its relevance in solving some concrete problems of their daily lives.
Creating informed options: The process of collective analyzes of given social settings provide many alternatives. As part of the process of data analysis, options are debated on the basis of concrete information. As a result, people are able to accept and reject options on an informed basis. This creates a sense of ‘empowerment’, which is based on the confidence that information has been understood and interpreted.
Liberating the mind: Finally, PR liberates the minds of the oppressed by helping them to reflect on their situation, regain their capacities, to analyze and critically exam-ine their reality and to reject the continued domination and hegemony of oppressors.
Increased ownership: The PR process puts emphasis on the active participation of the ordinary/oppressed people in generating their own knowledge. They learn to take responsibility for their own learning. It is this active focus, which constitutes a powerful impetus for people to exercise control over their own lives.
Empowerment: When people learn to value their own knowledge, produce as well as use new knowledge, are enabled to reflect on their situation of powerlessness and ignorance, and develop the capacity to participate rationally and critically in public life, they are empowered. Empowerment, thus, operates within three dimensions -
Personal: Developing a sense of self and individual confidence and capacity and undoing the effects of internalised oppression. (Power within) Relational: Developing the ability to participate, negotiate and influence the nature of relationship and decisions made within it. (Power to) Collective: Individuals work together to achieve a more extensive impact. This includes collective action based on cooperation. (Power with)
Karen Danely, Marsha Ellision, “The Handbook for Particpatory Action Researchers”, Boston, Boston University Press, 1999 Freire, Paulo, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” New York: Continuum, 1970. Pant Mandakini, “Participatory Research” References