Participatory Action Research for Positive Change

TaraMy name Tara Smeenk, and I am a third-year Global Sustainability Science student at the University of Utrecht. For my bachelor’s Thesis, I am conducting research about the barriers to and enablers of funding Participatory Action Research (PAR). The aim of the research is to identify the obstacles for funders in deciding whether or not to fund PAR Projects, and to find solutions for overcoming these barriers. I myself am involved in a PAR project in Utrecht, in which we try to establish sustainable initiatives that stimulate the energy transition, we are doing this in cooperation with primary schools and with guidance from 7Senses.

Working with PAR fascinates me, and I think that involving participants in setting up and carrying out projects, and solving problems through co-creation are very promising ways of approaching issues. This is also why it bothers me that researchers and project leaders using PAR often experience difficulties in finding funds for their projects, which lead me to my research topic. While a substantial body of literature is already available about the barriers to carrying out PAR itself, scientific literature about the barriers to and enablers for funding this research method is still lacking. Moreover, looking at the uncertainty and complexity that come with PAR and the resulting struggle of researchers to live up to the expectations of donors, it is important to better understand the relation between the two. I also think that facilitation of the funding of participatory research projects is relevant to society, because the inclusion of local people’s norms, values, perspectives and objectives is a prerequisite for successful implementation of development projects. With my research, I want to find out more about the mechanism of project funding, and to better understand how PAR projects can be shaped to fit into this mechanism.

Around August 2019, I hope to present the results and with that, an answer to my research question. As the inclusion of multiple perspectives and insights would truly benefit the credibility of my research, I would much appreciate it if people who have experience with funding PAR projects would be willing to share their thoughts with me. Do you think that you have some additional information or do you know someone that does? Do not hesitate to contact me at!