By Pacific Institute Staff
Participating in the decisions and activities of carrying out research can have a profound impact of empowering community members without previous training to understand, find solutions to, and communicate the challenges they face. Participatory Action Research is guided by the people affected by the issues being researched and is oriented toward action that will change the policies and institutions governing the issues. Facilitating meaningful participation in research entails new approaches that support trusting relationships, shared decision-making, and capacity-building.
Communities facing persistent environmental health and justice issues have the right to excellent research. We recognize that low-income communities and communities of color are too often subjected to extractive, irrelevant, and exploitative research – and when seeking out research find only inferior quality products and services available to them. The Pacific Institute engages in research processes and provides research products that reflect our principles of accuracy, relevance, rigor, accessibility, and usefulness. Our goal is produce research that reflects research standards used by peer-reviewed journals and is based on methods consistent with best practices by technical experts, while being entirely accountable to communities and supportive of building community power.
A participatory research process can support many aspects of building community leadership capacity, including:
- Identifying a common challenge or building a shared vision.
- Investigating the root causes of that challenge.
- Developing solutions to the challenge.
- Building relationships with similarly affected individuals and allied organizations.
- Delivering powerful, effective, and persuasive messages to communicate the need for action.
- Measuring whether a solution or policy is in fact being implemented and whether it is effective.
When disadvantaged communities produce and share their knowledge, the process also often produces more accurate and complete research.