Examples of Participatory Action Research & Community life competence process

This query comes from Ian Campbell, founding member of Constellation.

I am planning to present experiences of participatory action research (PAR) at an upcoming meeting. I would like to know if the coaches or facilitators of Community life competence have used the approach to facilitate Participatory action research. This will help me strengthen my case that for sustainable change people-centric approaches are key. I invite responses to the following questions:

  1. In which country have you used Community life competence process with PAR?
  2. PAR was on which issue?
  3. How did Community life competence help in PAR? 

Please respond by 2nd April 2016. I will share the feedback from the meeting. Thank you.

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Hello Ian,

As you are aware, we have conducted PAR on the issues of drug de addiction, HIV, psycho social support after natural disasters in India from the year 2010.

A few months ago, I have conducted PAR with a software industry CSR program.  The program addressed general community development, through the entry points of education, gender, community health and volunteer involvement by industry professionals.

The PAR was conducted after SALT visits to 550 houses, building relationships, listening to CONCERNS and HOPES, over a period of 1 year.

During the PAR, women, youth, men, children, industry volunteers who conducted the SALT visits and community leaders were queried.  This was followed by a visioning workshop which resulted in formation of 6 action groups in the community ( gender, infrastructure, health, education, alcohol and cleanliness).  This information is being to plan the CSR program of the industry for the year 2016-17.

The industry was working in the community for the past 8 years.  Nevertheless the reason why CLCP process was invited was due to the frustration of foundation leadership that no tangible results were visible.  However, the CLCP process activated the community, enabled them to voice their deep inner concerns and hope for the future.  The community that was fragmented along the lines of caste and other considerations started coming together around a common hope for future neighborhood life in the city of Pune, where they have migrated to - from interior villages.

The CLCP process has also activated a deep organizational change in the foundation.  The current programs are now focused around ‘agency’ development ( rather than project delivery ), the vision/mission/activity/ways of working / ways of thinking are deeply correlated.  A measurement process based on indicator development is now on.

The foundation now spends approximately 5 days per month in reflecting on the process and outcomes.  2 consultants have been hired in facilitating the reflection process.  The board members which consists mostly of industry professionals ( CEO of industry, CFO, COO and other industry stalwarts from other industries who are members of the board) are much aligned to CSR being a ‘way’ the industry operates ( and not an activity mandated by law).

SALT and human capacities now consist of 1 day of training ( for the 5 day manager training workshop), which every manager has to undergo before being inducted as a manager.  The senior management of the industry were trained in ‘agency development’/ human capacities / SALT, before they accepted SALT as a part of the standard manager training package.

The SALT visit process is now being initiated in a second community.

The larger vision is also to showcase the foundation activity as a replicable model for CSR groups in the city of Pune and across India.  Already another software major is doing program realignment and annual year plan based on this model, for the year 2015-16.

Some insights from India to add to your presentation.

Kind regards.


Thanks Bobby-very helpful and useabel


In Cambodia, we adapt CLCP as one important tool for PAR. 

I will share this experience later. Please see publication

Research in development: Learning from the CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems - 

Thank you Hak

Dear Ian,

I will share an experience which highlights why strength-based approach like Community life competence process and SALT are critical for Participatory action research. 

We know that there are power dynamics in the social environment. Role of communities is not valued. Similarly communities are not homogeneous group, there exist unequal power relations based different castes,tribles religions, race, gender, age etc. Unless stakeholders value communities and community members value each other irrespective of social and cultural differences the participation in action research will be tokenistic. 

I did a project with IDRC Canada in Cambodia and India with sex workers. The project was around building capacity of sex workers on documentation and advocacy. I was part of the evaluation team where we had to facilitate participatory action research with sex workers so that they could tweak their documentation and advocacy work throughout the two year project (2010-2012). We did a very participatory workshop with them. The sex workers seemed happy but then came back to us and said that they could not do research. "We are illiterate, it is the educated, white people who do research", was their comment.

That is when I proposed that we needed to use community life competence process to build confidence of the community in their ownself and also foster ownership towards the research. Thus we changed the whole PAR based on CLC. Additionally, self assessment framework proved to be an excellent tool for reflection and subsequent, community action. For instance how one NGO changed the aggressive approach towards the government and other stakeholders, how it started using evidence to support its arguments was the result of this reflection process.

What I learned from this project was that for effective community engagement in PAR we first need to invest in community processes. 

Thank Rituu-very clear and I will borrow some phrases, and note the source.

I am glad that you found my experience useful Ian. You might like to share about our upcoming project on immunisation.

Constellation will be working in India with Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) under 3ie project. PHFI will conduct impact assessment of the SALT (Stimulate, Appreciate, Learn, and Transfer) approach of community engagement to increase immunisation coverage through ownership - a mixed methods study in three districts of Assam (Northeast India). The Constellation's facilitation team will combine PAR with Community life competence approach because we believe that a systems thinking is key in sustainable change. To elaborate, PAR will attempt to include village communities, health workers, government officers and all other stakeholders. Unless we do not include all key stakeholders we may not be able to address structural inequalities and other issues beyond the reach of communities. 

Glad to have you with us in this project Ian!!


Dear Ian,

You will find this example very useful CLCP and PAR in agricultural research by Marina Apgar from World Fish http://aidscompetence.ning.com/profiles/blogs/clcp-and-par-in-agric....



Another blog Ian

Use of SALT in systemic participatory action research around modern slavery in two states in India.


Email feedback from Ian on how the responses were useful to his presentation:

Yes. It helped diversify the range of illustrations relevant to a group of researchers trying to make their efforts count. Thanks to you and Bobby and other contributions. 

Ian has shared a link where Constellation's approach has been cited in toolkit .

Toolkit Part 2: Participatory Research Models and Building Stakeholder Relationships

Here you will find the following cited (apart from others)

  • Affirm. (2015). Affirm: Facilitation associates responding to HIV and Ebola. Retrieved Nov 30, 2015, 2015, fromhttp://www.affirmfacilitators.org/contact.html
  • Campbell, C., Campbell, M., & Blair, S. (2012). Guiding Principles: Facilitating learning, understanding and change through relationships. Melbourne.
  • Constellation. (2006). Protocol for SALT Team Visits In Affirm: Facilitation associates responding to HIV and Ebola (Ed.). Surrey, UK.




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