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Faculty of Social Sciences & Health

Participatory action research : theories, methods and challenges

North East Doctoral Training Centre

in conjunction with Centre for Social Justice and Community Action, Durham University

and the UK Participatory Research Network

A two-day course for doctoral students and members of community organisations

Monday 3rd and Tuesday 4th July 2017

Kenworthy Room, St Mary's College, Durham University, Durham, UK. DH1 3LR

Following two very successful courses in 2015 and 2016, we are pleased to offer again a two-day course designed to develop understanding and skills in the theory and practice of participatory action research (PAR). PAR is increasingly popular, involving people affected by/interested in a research topic taking an active part in designing, carrying out and putting research into practice. The aim of PAR is to bring about change – for example, in people’s living conditions, service provision or public policy. Doctoral students taking a PAR approach face many challenges, including negotiating how to work with partner organisations, handling co-ownership of research findings relating to the thesis, and responsibilities for working for social change.

The course will cover key values, ethical/political issues, theorising and critiquing PAR, working with partner organisations to influence change, and participatory approaches to research design, process, analysis, dissemination and implementation. The course will be participatory, using small groups to focus on specific questions and evaluate learning. Community partners and academics will act as tutors. Ten places will be reserved for members of community organisations, enabling a process of mutual learning for doctoral students and community partners.

The objectives of the course are to:

  1. Enable participants to develop critical understandings of the uses, advantages and limitations of PAR, and an ability to draw on a range of theoretical and practical insights.
  2. Develop participants’ awareness of ethical and political challenges in PAR, particularly in community-university partnership working, and strategies for handling these.
  3. Facilitate the development of participants’ confidence in working with the complexities of PAR within different disciplines and settings.
  4. Offer participants the experience of learning and understanding through active participation during the course, particularly through the co-inquiry group model.
  5. Develop participants’ understanding of the impacts that PAR may have, and processes for creating and capturing these.

Facilitators: The course will be facilitated by a team of academic and community-based practitioners of PAR, with a variety of areas of expertise and experience, including: Professor Sarah Banks and Dr Andrew Russell, Co-directors, Centre for Social Justice and Community Action, Durham University; Professor Mary Brydon Miller, University of Louisville, USA; Dr Tina Cook, University of Northumbria; Yvonne Hall, St Antony’s Priory, Durham and others to be confirmed.

Who should come: the workshop will be of interest to doctoral students and members of community organisations who do, or are interested in doing, research that is participatory. In selecting participants from community organisations, priority will be given to those based in North East England.

Timing: the course will start at 10.30 on day 1 and finish at 16.00 on Day 2.

Accommodation: Overnight accommodation is available in the University for participants travelling from outside the North East.

How to apply: No further applications to this course are being considered. Unfortunately all places have been allocated.

Places are limited to 35, so early booking is advisable. If you are a member of a community organisation interested in attending please complete the online application form for community organisations. If you are a doctoral student, please complete the online application form for doctoral students.

The closing date is Friday 21st April (5pm). Candidates will then be contacted by the Project Team after that date regarding whether they have been selected to join the course. If places are still available, we will take applications after that date until the course is full.


  • The course is free for Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland, Teeside, Queens and Ulster University students. There are also up to 10 free places for members of community organisations, but if you need accommodation you will have to pay for that.
  • £60 to attend for postgraduate research students from other Universities. This fee includes meals during the two days, but doesn’t include overnight accommodation.

Accommodation: Overnight accommodation is available in the University for participants travelling from outside the North East. If accommodation at the University is required for the nights of 2nd, 3rd, or 4th July, you will need to book and pay directly via the online booking form. You will be sent the link for this once your place has been confirmed.

Further information: Please contact Bethan Kelly on (+44) 0191 33 41987 , or Sarah Banks if you require any further information about the course.