There is critical difference between traditional research and participatory action research (PAR). Comparing those two methodologies we can realize and explain how much they really differ from each other. The first question is what people are involved in the research? On one side we have an outsider so called “expert” researcher for traditional research. On the other side we find an insider so called “owner” of research in participatory action research. Next are goals. In traditional research there are often interests in getting knowledge for its own sake. However, during PAR, information collected is turned into actions! Focusing on background studies, gathering data and analyzing it, are characteristics in traditional research. On the other hand, we have data collected through observations in the field which make the PAR method different from traditional research.
To organize something successful isn’t easy. We need people to bring changes, we need well organized institutions, and most of all we need willingness, hope and desire that will transfer into action and successful endings. Intervention, development and change within communities and groups are what PAR strives to do. Since almost everywhere, such actions would be helpful; it makes PAR useful on a large scale. Many international development agencies, university programs, as well as countless local community organizations around the world use participatory action research. By local people for local people is the slogan of PAR. Everything is designed to address specific issues identified by local people, while the results are directly applied to the problems at hand.
Community based organizations are places that help the community, and help individuals to solve the issues of violence, drug abuse, gangs, health issues, etc. The placement I went to, is called, “Cherishing Our Hearts and Souls Coalition” and is in Roxbury. This organization “is a collaborative effort to improve the health of African-Americans in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts understanding that experiences with racism are significant sources of stress and ill health among African Americans” (Description of programs, 2). Its mission is a little out of my topic range, but even though I’ve gathered tons of information helping me to understand my own challenge; planned to gather as much useful information as possible from my site. Starting with online research I looked for graphs of violence range, interesting articles, and all kinds of tables including percentages, numbers, and drops connecting to my research question. Besides this kind of research there were also qualitative and quantitative data. Under qualitative data I collected field notes from each day of my visit, interviews with people, focus group, and document collection such as books. For quantitative data I included a survey, made myself, asking related questions, helping me to get as close as possible to the PAR method.
Geographic Information System (GIS) is a technique/method of organizing data geographically to explore and reveal patterns or trends. It uses geography as the primary organizer to measure and compare many things or other social forces (ex: economics, race, religion, etc…). Such maps and the use of geography are used to reveal and address real world problems. GIS maps are a great source for PAR projects. They are used for primary research as well as secondary research. It’s something more than physically mapping countries, cities, and continents, but a way of documenting people and society’s interaction with the environment. It looks for patterns of people in society and how they relate to “place.” As my research question is based on safety issues I was interested in the kinds of data that would help me understand those issues. One of the maps I’ll be using shows how safe people feel in certain neighborhoods. Another one that would be helpful and connected to the research question is the quality and access to education in city of Boston, connected with race statistics in the areas. Those maps, patterns, and data may really tell me and teach me why/what are the differences in neighborhoods and be a key in finding the answers.