Picture of Ms. Wafa Singh
Re: Characteristics of Participatory Research
by Ms. Wafa Singh - Thursday, 3 April 2014, 3:49 PM

Hello Namrata Ma'am!

It is so nice to have you as a guest faculty for the course on IPPR! I would like to share my views on two key characteristics of Participatory Research (PR), which I believe constitute the essence of the work.

Although PR is an integrated activity that combines social investigation, educational work and action, I feel it's most distinguishing characteristic is "Participation" itself. It is this participation that helps establish a relationship between the change agents, the participants and the subject at hand. By way of involving the local community in this process of co-production of knowledge, PR looks at mobilization of collective notions and actions, aimed at improving the status quo. Building on the premise that 'Knowledge is power', PR thence helps the community to not only critically analyze and investigate a problem, but also to embark on a collective action, in pursuit of a suitable solution. This kind of knowledge generation, which provides a mix of technical and traditional learning and experience, is by far the best way to address the myriad challenges, that we as a part of society face today.

Apart from participation, another key characteristic of PR is people's empowerment, as the ultimate goal of the process is fundamental structural transformation and improvement in the lives of those involved. Such a kind of research, opens gateways to their autonomy, by way of their taking command of the situation at hand, and look for mutually beneficial solutions. This process also makes the people aware of their abilities, builds on the existing knowledge along with strengthening the resources at hand.

Herein, I would like to share a personal experience. During my master's course, I was involved in a project, which looked to tap the water resources in six districts of Madhya Pradesh by way of participatory research. In this process, we consulted with the community, and building on their knowledge and our expertise, we mapped out the water resources in the concerned districts, first on a simple scale, using chalks and then converted the map into a digital form. This digitized version of the map, then proved to be a excellent resource for further studies.

It was this process that made me realize the importance and value of 'people's participation and their knowledge', and that any work that is aimed at benefiting the communities, is incomplete if it does not incorporate the people as participants themselves. Therefore, we need to free knowledge of the compartmentalization it has been subjected to, and begin to appreciate and value of the vast sea of knowledge, that resides with the communities, which is much different but equally valuable to its elitist counterpart.