Adapted from: Understanding and overcoming the challenges of ethnicity targeting – Office for Students

Participatory action research is a form of collaborative research, education and action which is used to gather information to use for social change. Unlike many other approaches PAR is driven by participants and based on their own concerns. It is therefore a form of action research which is built on research and action with people rather than for people.

Participatory action research (PAR) is a form of collaborative research, education and action which is used to gather information to use for social change. In particular, it involves people who are concerned or affected by an issue taking a leading role in producing and using knowledge about it. Many of the interventions designed to address inequalities are developed by policy makers, academics or other practitioners in isolation from students, with assumptions made about which interventions will have most impact. Where students are involved it is often to give a perspective on approaches already being formulated or to provide feedback on those that have been implemented.

Unlike many other approaches PAR is driven by participants and based on their own concerns. It is therefore a form of action research which is built on research and action with people rather than simply for people. This means that the benefits of the action are more likely to come to the people directly affected. In addition, local knowledge is rarely the basis of research or policy, but PAR is built on democratic beliefs about knowledge, with beneficiaries deemed to have equitable knowledge about what is of importance and how any concerns can be addressed. The process of Planning, Action, Reflection, and Evaluation therefore involves collaboration at every stage, with equitable sharing of power.

Durham University offers a very helpful guide on PAR and how to develop a PAR approach.