A Community of Practice
Participatory Action Network
This project is founded on the premise of participatory action research. Participatory action research is a research approach intended to collect, analyze, and apply information for the purpose of social change. Participatory action research is intended to be nonhierarchical. While one or more people may play the primary roles of facilitation of the research, the goal is to involve the participants in such a way that participants help determine the course of the research over time, and all participants’ needs and desires are considered to be the fundamental purpose and objective of the research.
The majority of social surveys collect data from participants, most of the time focusing on data that can be quantified, such as income level or years of education, with the purpose of aggregating that data to be used by policy makers in order to make decisions and take actions that they view as appropriate or beneficial based on their perceptions about what people need. However, few surveys go directly to the users of the systems to ask them what they want and need. The current survey is based on the contention that the people who use systems are the ones who best know what would make the systems better. This viewpoint considers that meaning is made locally, in the life of each individual and individual family, each of whom experiences some phenomena that are completely unique as well as phenomena that reflect themes shared by many people. Thus, the primary goal of the current study is to identify the types of changes and resources that would best bring about improvements for each individual participant. It is theorized that, while each participants’ experiences are unique, there will also be common themes that are shared collectively such that meaningful responses can be proposed that will serve the needs of many people.
Self-disclosure of the researcher
Much research is premised upon the separation of the researcher from the participants, in which case the researcher is presumed to be essentially invisible, objective, and machinelike. This type of research requires little self-disclosure by the researcher except for specific affiliations and funding sources that could create conflicts of interest in the research. Not so for participatory action research. In viewing my Facebook profile, all participants will be able to view personal information about me. They will be able to get a general idea of my interests, political leanings, and background through the information that is shared publicly. It is an important part of participatory action research that the researcher is not invisible, and is assumed not to be impartial. Instead, the researcher’s role in the research is to continually analyze and consider his or her own perceptions and predilections in conjunction with the whole of the research in the same way as is done for the respondents. Doing so situates the research within the systems and forces out of which it emerges.
Suggestions, dissemination of the findings, and participant anonymity
All responses to the survey are entirely anonymous. If you complete this survey, you will find near the end that I ask you for suggestions about how to make the research better, what kind of questions you would like to have been asked but that were not included, ideas for themes, participants, or other ways to change or expand the research that would be meaningful to you, and any other suggestions. These questions and any answers provided are intended to reflect the nature of the research as participatory, and the conceptualization of all participants as co-researchers. In light of this fact, all people who make suggestions that are incorporated into the project as it evolves will be referenced as contributors to the research. In order to maintain anonymity of the responses, the request is made not to include your name, contact information, or any information that makes you personally identifiable in the survey itself. Instead, if you want to be referenced by name as a contributor to the research when a draft of the findings is made available, please follow the link at the end of the survey leading you to the ww.thoughtsinaction.org webpage. Here, you can send a private message to me including your suggestions along with your name and email. Once the results to this first stage of the research are collected and analyzed, I will send the findings from the research to all participants who provide an email address. If you want me to send the findings to you, please sign up on the www.thoughtsinaction.org webpage. On the webpage there is also a forum for discussion in which everyone is welcome to participate as they wish. This research is collaborative!!! Therefore, it is meant to be done together!! You are all needed as part of a movement to enact positive change!!