AR, PAR, PR, CBPR, CBR - The letters and words we use to describe the process and practice of participation and action sometimes appear as a secret language code created by and for the select and privileged. The parrallel threads of action and participation cross at multiple points along the contimuum of engaged scholarship that implies both social action and participation. As a fledgling action researcher who identifies strongly with community-based participatory research, I find myself contemplating my own identity. Can I lay claim to any one research family? Along with family membership comes responsibility and accountability.
Stoecker (2009) discusses the historical division and divergent nature of action and participation. Differentiating community-based organizations from the term community. How is community participation defined in terms of setting the agenda, identifying the issues, strenghts and potential strategies? What does the “action” consist of? Does one begin the process of engaging participation of a community through a community-based organization who may or may not represent community member interests.
What is the end game? Is it through participation that social action is possible? How does capacity impact the ability to participate in order to even envision social change? Nelson, Poland, Murray and Maticka-Tyndale (2004) propose a framework for capacity-building within community health graduate programs. In the context of developing a framework for educating future community health researchers, the approach supports the idea that those engaging in research for social change must first have their own capacity envisioned and developed. This process is accomplished through clear identification of values, assumptions, power, partnership, systems and action. Build your own capacity first before you attempt to build others. Seems like a pretty obvious concept.
The questions are many and the answers remain elusive. I do believe standing at the intersection of participation and action requires one to have capacity. The alphabet soup seems to matter less than the ability of the researcher to reflect on their own motives and expectations. Only then can we truly facilitate capacity building in the community.
Nelson, G., Poland, B., Muray, M. & Maticka-Tyndale, E. (2004). Building capacity in community health action research. Action Research, 2(4), 389-408.
Stoecker, R. (2009). Are we talking the walk of community-based research? Action Research, 7(4), 385-404.