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Cambridge Global Challenges


Participatory Action Research (PAR) engages people in communities as agents of change. Traditionally, development project ‘beneficiaries’ have rarely been included in researching issues, finding solutions, designing indicators or measuring change. PAR provides a way of changing this, offering an inclusive community-driven approach to development. It is also an effective way of building participatory learning into organisations supporting development and social change. This course organized by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS, University of Sussex) equips development professionals with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills to design, develop and conduct context-sensitive PAR

The course aims to equip development professionals and change agents with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills to design, develop and conduct context-sensitive participatory action research (PAR).

The course draws on a range of PAR processes and methods which enable change to happen at scale both in organisations and across communities. These are of particular importance to development practitioners and researchers today, as they can help ensure interventions are relevant, appropriate and inclusive. Whether you work in the global South or North, this approach will encourage a more people-centred way of developing, delivering and assessing your projects and programmes of work.

The course is interactive, inclusive, participatory and applied. Sessions blend theoretical and conceptual learning with experiential learning and sharing. Case studies are used to help deepen understanding. Prior to the course, you will be asked to think of a critical question relating to your work or your organisation’s practice. Over the week you will explore this question, identify an appropriate PAR process to address it, and learn how to manage this process (including facilitation, recording, analysis, planning and monitoring). This will result in a detailed plan that you can operationalise on returning to your organisation.

By the end of the course, you will:

  • Understand how the contribution of the PAR process can improve your own and your organisation’s practice
  • Know about a range of PAR methods, key concepts and theories, and understand their appropriate application within your own work
  • Understand the ethical, political and practical challenges of using PAR approaches
  • Understand how to effectively facilitate, record and reflect on PAR processes
  • Be able to identify further training and resources that you or your organisation may need
  • Have designed a PAR process to address a key issue relating to your organisational and/or independent professional practice

Teaching Team:

  • Danny Burns - Danny leads the IDS Participation Cluster and his work focuses on participatory learning for social change with a strong emphasis on systems thinking and complexity.
  • Jo Howard - Jo is a Research Fellow with the Participation Cluster, and uses a range of participatory action research and learning processes to work with marginalised groups, civil society and governmental organisations across the UK social policy field and the international development arena.


Please find further information here and contact the Course Coordinator, Richard Douglass ( if you have any queries.




Sunday, 22 January, 2017 - 09:00 to Thursday, 26 January, 2017 - 17:00
Event location: 
Convening Space, Institute of Development Studies
Cambridge Global Challenges is a Strategic Research Initiative of the University of Cambridge that aims to enhance the contribution of its research towards addressing global challenges and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Funding Opportunities

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