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Communities researching themselves

Communities researching themselves to identify their own needs and solutions to those needs. This includes participatory methods such as those used in Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA). PRA involves a range of techniques such as interviews, mapping, focus groups and events to understand community views on particular issues. The aim is to engage local people in the identification of problems and the design and implementation of solutions. This approach has been used by the World Bank, Action Aid, the Aga Khan Foundation, the Ford Foundation and others. PRA uses a range of visualisation techniques – such as mapping as a tool for learning about sexual health and reproduction and physical mapping to represent the local area. These maps illustrate the boundary of a particular village or settlement and the social and economic infrastructure - roads, water supply, agricultural land, crops and schools.

Other examples include user-led and peer research which are based on the premise that people are best placed to identify their own needs and express their own ideas or solutions. User-led research has especially developed amongst long term users of health and social care services. Service users are responsible for all stages of the research process – from design, recruitment, ethics and data collection to data analysis, writing up and dissemination. One example is the independent, user-controlled network Shaping Our Lives, which started as a research and development project and now works with a wide range of service users across the UK.

(See Meera Kaul Shah, Sarah Degnan Kambou & Barbara Monahan (eds.), ‘Embracing Participation in Development’: Worldwide experience from CARE’s Reproductive Health Programs with a step-by-step field guide to participatory tools and techniques, CARE, 1999)