What is Participatory Action Research (PAR)?

Participatory Action Research (PAR) offers grantmakers opportunities to bring applied research and evaluation skills to those closest to the issues involved. PAR evaluation promotes positive change as it produces objective data, building knowledge that communities and communities of practice can put to use in strengthening themselves...even as it produces credible, convincing evidence, PAR strengthens knowledge and builds skills that can be used by people experiencing a community problem. The PAR process engages those close to the problem (it is “participatory”) while also promoting positive change (it involves “action”).

PAR aspires to engage all parties relevant to an evaluation in all of aspects of that evaluation, including defining the problem, developing questions, gathering and analyzing data, and preparing recommendations. It is “bottom up,” “inside out” research, a partnership between evaluators, practitioners, and other stakeholders, including those who hold official positions of authority. “PAR defines all stakeholders as experts with important knowledge and perspectives.”

Examples for use of PAR techniques:

  • Early childhood programs in the U.S. that bring parents, teachers, caregivers, and evaluators into partnerships to collect and analyze data related to preventive interventions in child development.
  • Evaluations led by newcomers to the United States that answer questions about problems they face, bring them into working relationships with government officials and service providers, and enhance community integration.
  • A youth-led research and evaluation project in the U.S., in which young people develop skills to analyze and address problems they perceive in their communities, schools, or youth development organizations.

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Participatory Action Research.