Voices of Change: Participatory Research in the United States and Canada

By Peter Park; Mary Brydon-Miller et al. | Go to book overview

What Is Participatory Research? A
Theoretical and Methodological
Perspective

PETER PARK

Society evolves as a continual process of transformation in which people collectively inquire, evaluate, and take action to change their life circumstances. In postindustrial society, however, we are now witnessing a serious threat to this human right of mastery over our own fate. This threat is not new, but it is more systemic and more widespread than before the advent of the industrialized nation-state. Significant segments of society all over the globe are institutionally excluded from participating in the creation of their own world as thinking, feeling, and acting subjects.

Participatory research is emerging as a self-conscious way of empowering people to take effective action toward improving conditions in their lives. It is not new for people to raise questions about their conditions or to actively search for better ways of doing things for their own well-being and that of their community, but what we are proposing is to look at these actions as research that can be carried out as intellectual activity. Organized rational efforts with an explicitly liberatory goal are needed in order to counteract the disenfranchising features of modern society that are embedded in sociocultural structures.

But why call it research? Cast in the mold of research, the knowledge link between what is needed for a better life and what has to be done to attain it is made clearer; knowledge becomes a crucial element in enabling people once more to have a say in how they would like to see their world put together and run. Participatory research is a means of putting research capabilities in the hands of the deprived and disenfranchised people so that they can transform their lives for themselves.

I would like to present an overview of what participatory research aims to accomplish. In doing so, I will describe how a participatory research

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