Participatory Action Research

Illustration of a human and a dolphin form 'swimming' in a circle


This approach emphasizes participation and action by research participants, who become active collaborators and agents of change rather than passive informants. It has an explicit focus on social change, rather than knowledge production only. PAR works through the simultaneous and mutually reinforcing process of doing research and taking action, linked through critical reflection. This involves researchers and participants working together to understand a problematic situation and bring about social change that promotes democracy and challenges inequality. PAR is context-specific, often addressing the needs of a marginalized group by helping them gain greater awareness of their situation in order to take action themselves. It does so by foregrounding research collaborators’ own knowledge and lived experiences, as opposed to academic or expert knowledge, and seeks to subvert the traditional power hierarchies of conventional research.

Primary objective

This approach is especially useful when stakeholder engagement and translation into action is a high priority and/or when working on topics which require the meaningful collaboration of research participants, for example in access to research areas.


Medium value

Identify problems and opportunities together with participants, leveraging their knowledge, lived experience, and access.

Design, implementation and evaluation

Primary value

Co-develop and implement interventions with participants, leveraging their knowledge, creativity, and lived experience.

Low value

Collaboratively explore intervention benefits and limitations

Adoption & scale

Low value

Conduct participatory exploration in new intervention locations

Unique attributes

Strength in understanding how to address a problem together with research participants as active collaborators.

It is biased towards action rather than purely academic knowledge creation, through an iterative cycle of data collection, reflection, discussion and action.

It aims to co-create with research collaborators rather than extract information and remove ownership of knowledge. It thereby advocates for power sharing in research design, execution and analysis.