Fall 2019

Th 2-5, WMB 6.126   
CRP 386 

Participatory Action Research is  an approach to community engagement that empowers the participants to become the protagonists of change . Rather than trying to convince the participants of an expert solution, the planner or change agent  fosters a mutual learning process WITH the community.  

This course offers the skills, attitudes, and tools for engaging communities in a productive way, as partners in collaborative action, rather than as a public that needs to be informed and convinced.  Mastery of this powerful approach allows you, the practitioner, to discern when and how to offer your expertise so as to foster community initiative and learning. 
Participatory process design, along with participatory tools and methods, is emphasized. The course demonstrates how to move with the community from piecemeal actions to strategic thinking about longer term planning and development issues for community sustainability.  It addresses the following questions: 1. How to design and facilitate the process ofcollective reflection and participatory inquiry for strategic planning and action. 2. How your own disciplinary expertise and research skills can best be utilized in participatory action research.

For the term project, students will design a strategy for a non-profit organization that wishes to expand community participation in its efforts to promote sustainable development, connectivity, and social equity in a low income neighborhood in Monterrey, MX. We will have three Skype calls with  the executive director to present your draft proposals and receive feedback.

Most class sessions will be divided into three parts:  
1. Facilitated discussion and inquiry around the readings.
2. An in-class exercise to deliberate alternative actions for a selected case
3. Introduction and application of a practical tool or method for PAR process design.
The readings include practical case studies, with numerous examples from the Global South.     
By the end of the course the student should be able to
• Exhibit a practical understanding of the skills and attitudes of a PAR facilitator.
• Articulate his/her own framework for understanding participatory action research and the roles and contributions of the professional.
• Demonstrate knowledge of a basic set of methods and strategies for engaging the community through a participatory action learning process, at different scales and time horizons.
• Address difficult decisions in community development work from multiple perspectives.


The two  required texts are available both on line and at the University Coop.
o Wilson, The Heart of Community Engagement: Practitioner Stories from Across the Globe, 2019
o Kelly and Westoby, Participatory Development Practices:  Using Traditional and Contemporary Frameworks, 2018.

Grade will be based on your term project write-up, in-class facilitations, and class participation.

Class size limited to 12 students.