About PAR - Strategies Baoin Ebony from Zanzibar
Connecting leaders to people through field work that makes sense!
Discover why participatory research works.

Participatory research is direct conversation with real people about their community and landscape. There are a wide array of community-based engagement tools available that permit the collection of valuable, unbiased qualitative and quantitative data in support of sustainable development.

Participatory strategies offer a gentle path for reversing trends leading to climate change and for guiding communities in adapting to existing effects.  Our solution is to improve participatory community engagement in federal, State, regional and local initiatives. We focus participatory research on community well-being and ecosystem stewardship to build peace, foster sustainability and restore the Earth's natural systems.

Participatory researchers offer insight into cultural patterns, way of life, lifestyle, local values, knowledge and interests. This is a useful set of information for offer public decision makers and stakeholders attempting to optimize outcomes and maximize the efficient use of resources.

Many social scientists and planners will be familiar with participatory action research (PAR).  PAR is a useful umbrella term to encompass many forms of participatory community engagement.  Specific forms and tools are provided in the Resources [link] section of this website.  Participatory research includes participatory learning and action, participatory rural appraisal, ethnography, bioregional mapping, citizen science and much more.  The Institute interchangably makes use of the terms PAR, participatory research and participatory action research to refer to a common set of field practices.

Through epi’s brand of PAR, locals are guided in meaningful self-discovery for the purpose of reaching common goals.  epi's brand of PAR focuses on two objectives:  community well-being and ecosystem stewardship.  Baseline information on well-being and stewardship can orient management plans and policy.  Later, this baseline data permits the participatory evaluation of outcomes and the opportunity to adapt strategies to take into account new information as it arises.


Participatory researchers learn from local people in their spaces.

The PAR approach gives local people tools to affirm what is meaningful in their lives, community and surroundings. Planners become facilitators of local ‘know how’ whether in an urban, suburban or rural setting.

PAR strategies are localized, culturally attuned, and adaptive.  Visual representations of shared mental models and small group reflection are at the heart of many PAR techniques [link].  PAR strategies also ensure optimal conditions for community-based small group reflection and decision-making.  PAR practitioners reflect upon a guiding set of principles [link] and recalibrate their efforts at regular intervals. 

PAR Research and Development

With future grant support, the Institute plans to refine participatory tools for public input that happens upstream and is neutral and science-based.  The Institute furthers rigorous qualitative research protocols; such protocols[link] ensure credibility, confirmability, validity and reliability.  We plan to elucidate general and site-specific indicators[link] of community well-being and ecosystem stewardship. The Institute works to establish legislation to protect confidentiality for community members and researchers similar to protections enjoyed by lawyers, doctors and therapists in their relationship with clients. These protections are essential to building rapport and trust.

Since the Second World War, socio-economic targets drove economic or community development with a primary focus on purchasing power, discretionary income, per capita income and Gross National Product(GNP).  At this time, one might conclude that such objectives may not have served as well as expected.

Participatory insights differ from socio-economic or materialistic measures of well being.  Socio-economic measures provided statistical evidence to guide planning for the future.  These survey-based instruments replaced simple observation also referred to as ethnography.  It is now possible to conduct ethnography in settings that one might not consider "ethnic."  Ethnography is now being used to understand cultural patterns in settings in which social constructs were not previously discussed consciously by public planners, decision makers, stakeholders and the general public. 

Interactive Online Discussion

epi’s participatory portal on PAR connects the social network[link] of PAR practitioners in co-creating best practice and in inspiring the design of new projects [link] through sound, peer-reviewed case analysis[link] and coaching.


epi's web icons are images of 19th century scientific instruments and cultural resources.  Our icons are meant to evoke the observational strategies of Charles Darwin and other scientists including biologists, naturalists, anthropologists and even physicists. These set the stage for epi's blog: Hiking with Darwin.

About the Page Icon:  A local or seasonal pastime is an entree.  Getting to know people's customs, work habits, celebrations, and even games offers considerable insight into what is locally meaningful and works.  Culturally evocative examples include bao, rodeo, backgammon, wildcrafting, basketball, music, mah jong, fishing, bocce ball and many more activities.