Participatory Action Research Practice and Social Policy Engagement

  • Sandy Lazarus
Part of the Community Psychology book series (COMPSY)


This chapter tells a story of research practice, highlighting the joys and trials of conducting participatory action research (PAR) in various settings. I begin by providing an overview of PAR as an approach to research. I then share some stories of doing PAR during apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa, including reflections on policy research and development work, and community-based participatory research (CBPR) in rural and urban contexts. This is followed by reflections on my participation in PAR, with a focus on promoting action, fostering participation, addressing power differentials and managing the emotional labour of this kind of work. I conclude this chapter by raising some burning questions emerging from my research work.


Participatory action research (PAR) Community-based participatory research (CBPR) Community research Social policy engagement Community psychology practice 


  1. 1.
    Wallerstein, N., & Duran, B. (2008). The theoretical, historical, and practice roots of CBPR. In M. Minkler, & N. Wallerstein (Eds.), Community-based participatory research for health (pp. 25–46). San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Lazarus, S. (1985). Action research in an educational setting. South Africa Journal of Psychology, 15(4), 112–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Evans, S. D., Duckett, P., Lawthom, R., & Kivell, N. (2017). Positioning the critical in community psychology. In M. Bond, I. Serrano-Garcia, C. B. Keys, & M. Shinn (Eds.), APA handbook of community psychology: Vol. 1. Theoretical foundations, core concepts, and emerging challenges (pp. 107–128). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder & Herder.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Lykes, M. B. (2017). Community-based and participatory action research: Community psychology collaborations within and across borders. In M. Bond, I. Serrano-Garcia, C. B. Keys, & M. Shinn (Eds.), APA handbook of community psychology: Vol. 2. Methods for community research and action for diverse groups and issues (pp. 43–58). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Wallerstein, N., Duran, B., Oetzel, J., & Minkler, M. (2017). Community-based participatory research for health: Advancing social and health equity. San Francisco, CA: Wiley.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2005). Paradigmatic controversies, contradictions, and emerging confluences. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The sage handbook of qualitative research (3rd ed., pp. 191–215). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Seedat, M., & Suffla, S. (2017). Community psychology and its (dis)contents, archival legacies and decolonisation. South African Journal of Psychology, 47(4), 421–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    NECC/Oxford. (1992). National Education Policy Investigation (NEPI): Support services. Oxford: Cape Town, South Africa.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Department of Education. (1997). Quality education for all: Overcoming barriers to learning and development. Report of the National Commission on special needs in education and training and the National Committee on education support services. Pretoria, South Africa: Department of Education.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Department of Education. (2001). White paper 1: Developing an inclusive education and training system for South Africa. Pretoria, South Africa: Department of Education.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Department of Health. (2003). Health promotion policy for South Africa. Draft policy developed for the national directorate: Health promotion. Pretoria, South Africa: Department of Health.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Department of Health. (2000). National guidelines for the development of health promoting schools/sites in South Africa. Policy document prepared for the Department of Health (in collaboration with the departments of welfare and education). Pretoria, South Africa: Department of Health.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Lazarus, S. (2001). Social policy and community psychology in South Africa. In M. Seedat, N. Duncan, & S. Lazarus (Eds.), Community psychology: Theory, method and practice: South African and other perspectives (pp. 343–367). Cape Town, South Africa: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Lazarus, S., Naidoo, A. V., May, B., Williams, L. L., Demas, G., & Filander, F. J. (2014). Lessons learnt from a community-based participatory research project in a South African rural context. South Africa Journal of Psychology, 44(2), 147–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Taliep, N., Simmons, C., Phillips, S., & van Niekerk, D. (2015). Manual for building bridges mentoring programme. Tygerberg, South Africa: South African Medical Research Council.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Lazarus, S., Duran, B., Caldwell, L., & Bulbulia, S. (2012). Public health research and action: Reflections on challenges and possibilities of community-based participatory research. In J. Maddock (Ed.), Public health (pp. 309–324). London: Intech: Open access publisher.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Isobell, D., Lazarus, S., Suffla, S., & Seedat, M. (2017). Research translation through participatory research: The case of two community-based projects in low-income African settings. Action Research, 14(4), 393–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Duran, E., & Firehammer, J. (2015). Story sciencing and analyzing the silent narrative between words: Counseling research from an indigenous perspective. In R. D. Goodman & P. C. Gorski (Eds.), Decolonizing ‘multicultural’ counseling through social justice (pp. 85–97). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Bowen, F., Newenham-Kahindi, A., & Herremans, I. (2010). When suits meet roots: The antecedents and consequences of community engagement strategies. Journal of Business Ethics, 95, 297–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sandy Lazarus
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute for Social and Health SciencesUniversity of South Africa (Unisa)PretoriaSouth Africa
  2. 2.South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)-Unisa ViolenceInjury and Peace Research UnitCape TownSouth Africa
  3. 3.Faculty of EducationUniversity of the Western CapeCape TownSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations