Participatory Action Research (PAR): Towards a Non-extractive Methodology
The N-EXTLAW Project researches non-extractive economic practices (N-EXTs), applying Participatory Action Research (PAR) as its main methodological approach.
What is PAR?
Participatory action research (PAR) is an approach to research based on bottom-up collaboration between researchers and the communities on which the research itself is focused.
Taking this approach, we not only seek to produce relevant knowledge on non-extractive economic practices (Research), but simultaneously strive to use that knowledge to modify the existing legal structures that currently prevent N-EXTs from emerging and prevailing into ones that will help N-EXTs thrive and make them politically viable (Action).
This knowledge creation and transformative action are both achieved through active collaboration between academic researchers and the communities at which the research is focused (Participation). In our case, this means an active collaboration between the N-EXTLAW project academic research team and representatives of N-EXTs.
Unlike other social science research methods that see the roles of the researchers and “the researched” as inherently separate, the participatory side of PAR allows all involved parties to directly participate in the entire process of inquiry. The N-EXTs’ representatives and the academic researchers work together to actively shape the study from the beginning.
PAR positions the communities affected by the research as co-researchers rather than “subjects of a study” or merely informants, and allows them to shape the questions asked and inform the research process itself through their experiences. This positioning of N-EXTs as co-researchers in our project enables us to shape the research process in a way that it generates knowledge which directly helps to improve their existence, with a potential to instigate a structural social and ecological transformation. Due to this dimension of genuine participation and focus on the wellbeing of N-EXTs as a guiding principle, we consider PAR to be a non-extractive research methodology, in line with the overall theoretical grounding of the N-EXTLAW project.
How does PAR work?
In PAR, research and action happen within so-called participatory communities. The process of collaborative inquiry can take many shapes and forms within a participatory community, from workshops through discussion forums, to reading groups or podcast interviews. The form which the discovery process will take is ultimately in the hands of all participants.
In N-EXTLAW, there are four PAR communities in four European jurisdictions (the Netherlands, Italy, Norway and Croatia). These communities include representatives from a variety of N-EXTs covering all categories of economic activity such as manufacturing, consumer goods and services (food, retail, delivery, clothing, leisure), housing, care, energy, finance and data.
We want to design private law (supported by public law) to support and mainstream N-EXTs, achieving a sustainable economic model.
We are currently at the early stages of designing our PAR-study and building of the participatory communities. We are happy to invite anyone interested to join our participatory communities and become part of the N-EXTLAW project.