A Participatory Action Research Field Guide from the Healthy Neighborhoods Study

This Field Guide describes how the partners in the Healthy Neighborhoods Study do research in 9 communities in Greater Metropolitan Boston. Our communities have been disinvested and overlooked for decades and are home to people of color, immigrants, and workers. We research how neighborhood changes, like gentrification and climate change, impact people’s health.

Our research is done by Resident Researchers – residents of our Healthy Neighborhoods Study communities. We use a research approach called Participatory Action Research (PAR). This method is grounded in the idea that the people who are most impacted by a problem are in the best position to understand and solve that problem. This means that research on the health impacts of neighborhood change should be led by the people in the communities experiencing that change. Thus, our research focuses on residents’ lived experiences and expertise. 

After years of research together, we wrote this guide for other communities interested in Participatory Action Research.

The Guide includes:

  • Principles to guide the practice of Participatory Action Research
  • Overview of the process of setting up a PAR Project
  • Support for developing research questions and tools
  • Guidance for collecting and analyzing data
  • Support for developing action projects based on the research
  • Documentation to support PAR, including partner and resident researcher agreements, training facilitation guides, action project facilitation guides, and more