Recently, RECOFTC-The Center for People and Forests and its ASEAN-Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change (ASFCC) project concluded its successful ‘participatory action research’ or PAR initiative with a 2-day workshop to highlight the lessons learned of government and non-government researchers on the use of PAR, and to share the results of various studies conducted since 2013.
All seven participating organizations (NGO, GO and academe) presented good results with the use of PAR, however, the experience of Raks Thai Foundation offers a good representation of the overall impact of RECOFTC-ASFCC’s Participatory Action Research initiative in the three countries where it was implemented: Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand.
Below are the top 10 take-aways from a discussion with Raks Thai Foundation’s Program Coordinator, Ms. Sarinthip Promrit.
While PAR also has its share of disadvantages – slow process, intrudes into existing culture, readiness of community to participate, data reliability and integrity, opens up issues that PAR researchers have not prepared for or are not ready to handle, susceptible to dominant groups or individuals, etc. However, with proper training and facilitation, PAR researchers can overcome these challenges.
According to Ms. Sarinthip, the reason why they did not encounter that many challenges in implementing PAR in climate change adaptation of Chaem Noi Village, Kalayaniwattana District, Chiang Mai, was because they have continuously worked there for five years, and have won the trust of the community. A testament to this is that their lead community researcher is from the Karen indigenous people. In a nutshell, Raks Thai has already built a solid foundation for present or future activities to be implemented with less fundamental challenges.
To conclude: there is a trust and participation relationship conundrum. On one hand, communities need to participate to gain trust with others, but at the same time, they need to trust outsiders first before any participatory approach can succeed. Perhaps the solution is separating the PAR process and the people that implement it. In both cases, time and sincere efforts are needed to achieve participation and gain the trust of the community.