Participatory Research

Susie Hay is an experienced provider of training in Participatory Appraisal (PA).

PA is based on a set of tools that rely largely on visual methods and an ethos of involvement and engagement that allow much clearer expression of ideas and ambitions and encourages a more open and wider range of views to be expressed. The method values local people as experts on their own lives, enables diverse views to be expressed, and overcomes barriers of language, culture, age, literacy and numeracy etc.

It can facilitate a process by which communities are able to express their issues, needs and aspirations, which then leads to positive learning for future action. This is achieved successfully when key stakeholders (e.g. policy makers, service leads and officers) actively support the process. They are needed in order to translate the recommendations into real changes on the ground, and feed back to participants any changes that are or are not possible/put into practice.

It is very important to underscore the distinction between PA and other formal types of social and academic research.  PA is not a scientific research methodology, but looks to collect highly qualitative information relating to participants’ experiences, and perceptions of reality, to acknowledge issues and plan for change.  In PA there is as much or even more emphasis on process, relationship building, sharing of knowledge and conciliation between stakeholders in a certain specific context, in order to move forward in a way which is mutually beneficial and sustainable.

More information about PA:

Participatory Appraisal: What is it?
Participatory Appraisal: A Brief Introduction
PA: The Big Shifts
On Tap not On Top

The following training courses are available:

Developing Community Activity Research and Facilitation Skills (Equivalent to An Introduction to Participatory Appraisal). 3 credits at Level Two awarded by the Open College Network, London Region.

Advanced Participatory Appraisal
A two day (without fieldwork) or three day (with fieldwork) course for practitioners with a body of PA experience to explore good practice, to add further skills, and re-visit aspects of PA where they need further understanding.

Train the Trainer
A three day customised PA course for experienced practitioners to gain the qualification to train others in PA. A certificate is awarded following the submission of a written assignment reflecting on learning and practice.

All of these courses have been developed by the Hull and East Riding Participatory Appraisal Network. Susie Hay is an accredited Trainer with the Network. Training courses are usually facilitated by two trainers from the network. Where it can be arranged Train the Trainer participants can be offered training experience by attending and shadowing courses led by others.

A selection of recent shortwork PA training and projects:

2013 – ongoing
London Borough of Camden
Development of the Community Researchers Project where cohorts of community members have been trained in PA and other methods in order to carry out consultation projects in the community including amongst other topics for the Service User Satisfaction survey, and to access community perceptions of Health and Wellbeing. These researchers are paid London Living Wage to carry out these projects, and have illustrated the power of this approach in accessing views from a genuinely diverse and representative number of local people, and importantly from those who do not traditionally have a voice or who are accessed by more conventional, quantitative methods of engagement.

South Hampstead and Kilburn Community Partnership

Training in PA approaches and project support for community research into issues of quality of life and wellbeing on the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate (Swiss Cottage) where residents face major issues of disadvantage including poverty, educational opportunity, ethnicity, isolation and evironmental factors.
Some of the local researchers involved are currently moving on to becoming community activists and enablers, including by becoming PA trainers.

London Borough of Tower Hamlets (Public Health)

Current projects include:

  1. Training for new teams of Health Trainers working across the Borough
  2. Asset Mapping – Tower Hamlets Local Links where PA trained local people are accessing qualitative data from local people about where they go in Tower Hamlets to enhance their wellbeing, and these places and stories are being tracked on the online wellbeing Asset map – Local Links

Poplar HARCA
Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace: Participatory research project that has involved carrying out in-depth consultation sessions with the Estates Services Teams (including the cleaners, maintenance personnel, painters, gardeners etc.). Some 100+ workers have been involved in these sessions which have identified ways in which health and wellbeing at work might be enhanced, including by identifying barriers to and ways of improving their uptake of staff benefit schemes and other local health provision.

Tower Hamlets PCT – Participatory Appraisal (PA) training for 35 volunteers and supporting and supervising them in carrying out a PA project addressing barriers members of the diverse communities in Tower Hamlets face in accessing Cancer Screening Services (Joint project in partnership with Womens Health and Family Services (WHFS) Whitechapel).

London Borough of Camden Council Parents’ Council
– Participatory Appraisal (PA) training for staff and parent members with a view to enabling them to better engage with other parents and wider communities on issues of concern to parents and families in the Borough.

London Borough of Camden Safeguarding Children Board
(jointly with Martin Westerby)
Engaging Communities: Involving Service Users in Setting the Safeguarding Agenda. A Community Research/Participatory Appraisal Project.

Voices – Lives of Young People in South London
(jointly with Roger Newton of 3Ps and the SOS Gangs project at the St Giles Trust, Camberwell)
PA training and participatory video by the young people, funded by the Cadbury Trust.

Tower Hamlets Healthy Boroughs Programme
– Participatory Appraisal project working with the communities in Tower Hamlets to find community owned ways to lead healthier and more active lives.

Wakefield and Castleford PCT
PA training for the new Community Development team in health promotion.

Calderdale Council
PA project involving training young volunteers in Todmorden to enable the community to express their views about the town and to promote discussion and better relationship with service providers.