Researching with and alongside the community: Participatory Action Research (PAR) in action
By Farjana Karim.
At Toynbee Hall we try to ensure that people and communities have the biggest say in shaping the services we provide, and also the issues we research and campaign on. A central aspect to our approach is supporting those with lived experience to share their expertise, in their own words, and working alongside them to work towards the positive changes that they want to see.
Through this series of blogs our Research and Policy team, in their own words, will share our approach to research, demonstrating how impactful it can be and reflecting on how its potential can be harnessed. This first blog comes from Farjana. She is twenty two years old, has been living in Tower Hamlets for all of her life, and also works part-time in our Advice Centre to support local people to access debt and legal advice. Alongside her role with us, she is training to become a lawyer, and finds the time to volunteer with us as a community researcher on our community safety project, a project aimed at making Tower Hamlets a safer and more cohesive borough for everyone.
“Hello, my name is Farjana Karim, and I am one of the peer researchers for the community safety project. The reason that I wanted to join the project as a researcher is that I have lived in this borough for a long time. I wanted to be able to do something that helps in creating a change in our communities.
When I first read about this project, I became very interested because of how well thought out the whole project was. Personally, I liked that it wasn’t just asking people what the problem is but also having a plan on implementing changes to help fix those issues in terms of the policy.
This project has also helped me in getting to know my community more because as someone who studies and works at the same time, I rarely had the opportunity to be able to sit down with even my neighbours to have a conversation “
This project has also helped me in getting to know my community more because as someone who studies and works at the same time, I rarely had the opportunity to be able to sit down with even my neighbours to have a conversation. This survey allowed for me to be able to get to know my neighbours and people of my community much more.
This survey also aimed to encourage as many young people as possible to complete the survey and join the mission of making the community safer. This has been a great opportunity for young people to give their opinions and give them a voice as the future of the communities will affect them most significantly. Furthermore, the survey wasn’t just a paper-based survey which allowed me to be able to send the online link to the survey to as many people as I could who are also like me studying thus not having much time to meet to sit down and complete the survey together. It allowed them to complete the survey from anywhere they were.
I am really thankful to be able to take part in a project like this, this project made me feel like the whole mission to help in making the community safer is very serious and is a good project to join in with and help in doing so.”
As described by Farjana, Participatory Action Research (PAR) has the potential to enhance both the quality of research and its impact. Over the coming months we will share diverse experiences across our PAR projects, including our project working with young people to make renting better and prevent homelessness. We hope these blogs encourage you to undertake research using a PAR approach, and that our reflections help those of you already using PAR to reflect on how its potential can be further harnessed.
If you are interested in getting involved in our PAR projects, or if you would like to get in touch to learn more about them or our community-led approach to research, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.