The relevance of Participatory action research (PAR) within policy-facing social sciences research, while long established, is increasingly recognized due to a growing emphasis on research uptake and impact. This is because participatory research affirms stakeholders as agents bringing diverse knowledge and techniques, and a commitment to and ownership of research findings and outputs in ways that are deemed more likely to be translated into action. Reviewing why participatory research is relevant for research uptake and impact agendas, we consider the opportunities, tensions, dilemmas and limits of participatory research in impact contexts internationally, including where these involve ‘non-standard’ PAR populations. Participatory research, we argue, raises a number of challenges – professional, political, logistical – which take on further dimensions where research is conducted with policy stakeholders and is international. In addition, how PAR is applied in practice and the context of that practice bear significantly on the quality and nature of the research outcomes. Just as research pathways to impact are multiform and context-specific, so too are PAR pathways. We highlight the considerable potential of a better understanding of the relationship between PAR and policy change as a research topic in its own right.
Amaya, A.B.; Yeates, N. Participatory Action Research: new users, new contexts, new challenges. Open University, Milton Keynes, UK (2015) 23 pp. [PRARI Working Paper 15-6]