New Resource: Participatory Action Research Maps

“Participatory Action Research is a framework for creating knowledge that is rooted in the belief that those most impacted by research should take the lead in framing the questions, design, methods, analysis and determining what products and actions might be the most useful in effecting change.”

-- María Elena Torre

During a course on Participatory Action Research offered by CoLab at MIT DUSP this past fall, students were invited to design, in groups, their own PAR Maps: a product that captured each groups’ best thinking about the assumptions, commitments, methods, and outstanding questions that guide/trouble best PAR practices. Based on María Elena Torre’s PAR Map of 2009 , students came up with intellectually comprehensive and visually attractive proposals that they found useful for their own practice with communities.

One of the maps, developed by Hannah Diaz, Xio Álvarez, and Samra Lakew, was titled Growing your Participatory Action Practice, and it built on the idea of PAR being an “iterative, generative, and multiplicative method of approaching social change.” Another group, constituted by Lafayette Cruise, Szabolcs Kiss, and Carrie Watkins, designed the PAR map as an actual subway map, locating all the stations between system failure and system change that community processes need to go through. Jay Dev, Jill Kronberg and Maia Woluchem compared the PAR process to an endless sequence of waves. Every new wave starts with the definition of the problem and finishes with a process of reflection and evaluation before addressing the next challenge.


Examples of the maps that were produced in class.

All these maps and some more (PAR Ecology Map, PAR Cycle, PAR Dance) are available for download. They can be used as a reference in your own engagement process with communities addressing social change. We invite you to co-produce with your team your own PAR Maps that can help guide your steps along complex processes of social transformation.

Learn more about CoLab’s work to innovate at the margins.