Participatory Action Research for Positive Change

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The Plant method

The Plant method is a way of allowing participants in focus groups to build on each other’s ideas in a constructive way. The aim of this method is to concretize “vague” solutions. The advantage of this method is that there is only the possibility to add something to suggested ideas, which discourages disapproval or condemnation of ideas by other participants. Depending on the way participants get started, the end result resembles a plant. The “vague” solution is written down at the bottom, in the “plant pot”. A first idea of ​​how this can be achieved is written down in a first “leaf of a plant” or stem directly above it. Ideas or actions that are building upon that first idea are written as a next leaf attached to it and so forth, until no new ideas or actions are added to the first idea. Ideas that concern other elements of the solution are given a new branch or leaf, or trunk just above the plant pot, to which participants can also add new ideas. If necessary, if the atmosphere and time permit, the plant can be expanded even further by adding per leaf in a different color who will carry out that idea or action and when. If the atmosphere or time does not allow this, this can be saved for a subsequent focus group, in which you continue to build on the “plant” or apply a different co-creation method. When there are more than one solutions chosen or there are many participants in a focusgroup it may be decided to combine the Plant method with for example World Café.

The drawing above comes from a Participatory Action Research with refugees in the project ‘The Socially Inclusive Community Center“. The digital plant picture is a template for the Plant method which can be used in online focus groups. Participants can drag the leafs towards the plant.

Method The Plant method
Purpose To concretize “vague” solutions
Ideally to be used in which PAR stages? Action plan Co-creation
Level of difficulty Medium
Time investment 1-1,5 hours
Requirements Large pieces of paper, crayons (preferably) in different colors or a digital template of the plant method
To combine with Focus Groups, World Café
  • When the solution mentioned or prioritized by participants is still vague
  • Facilitates building upon each others ideas rather than disapproving them
  • Usually fun to do for participants
  • Delivers a tangible outcome
  • Hard to think of one!