Introduction to Participatory Action Research

Methodology courses and philosophy of science

Course information

ECTS: 2.5
Number of sessions: 4
Hours per session: 3
Course fee:

  • free for PhD candidates of the Graduate School
  • €195,- for non-members
  • consult our enrolment policy for more information


Telephone: +31 (0)10 4082607 (Graduate School)

In the academic year 2021-2022 this course will take place online.

Session 1
May 17 (Tuesday) 2022

Session 2
May 24 (Tuesday) 2022

Session 3
May 31 (Tuesday) 2022

Session 4
June 7 (Tuesday) 2022


This workshop introduces Participatory Action Research (PAR). PAR is a research approach with which researchers not only aim to understand societal issues but also wish to contribute to social change. Since long, the research approach has been applied in the global South (developing countries). Increasingly however, the approach becomes relevant and useful for the global North.

PAR-based studies are participatory in their approach, i.e. they are designed and conducted in close collaboration with participants of the research population and other relevant societal stakeholders. Simultaneously, PAR also allows an in-depth understanding of the societal context as well as of the persistency of the problems through being closely involved in addressing these.

Often the aim of these studies is to rethink and reinterpret complex issues, synthesize different types of knowledge, and collectively develop new hypotheses and solutions. Researchers that use this approach aim their research questions and methodology to remain attuned to the real situation and experience of the research population, thereby providing points for further action.

Aims and working method

The workshop consists of a combination of presentations and discussions. It covers the following issues:

  • Historical development of Participatory Action Research (PAR)
  • Methodological and epistemological background
  • Discussion of degrees of participation and application of PAR in different parts of the research cycle
  • Relevance of PAR for developing scientific insights and knowledge
  • Several examples of PAR in practice, based on projects in both the global South and global North
  • Reflection on how your PhD research could adopt a participatory approach
  • Future developments and challenges

Learning objectives

After completing the workshop, participants will:

  • Understand the historical development of PAR
  • Understand why and for which research purposes PAR is useful
  • Have a solid idea of the various ways in which PAR may be conducted
  • Have reflected whether PAR could possibly be adopted in their own PhD research, and if so, where in the research cycle

Required skills

This workshop is designed for those with no or limited experience with PAR.

About the instructor

Derk Loorbach is professor of socio-economic transitions and director of the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT) of Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR). DRIFT is an interdisciplinary institute that combines innovative research with close cooperation with policy-makers and businesses to further sustainable development.

Professor Loorbach was amongst the first researchers to develop the concept and approach of transition management. Central theme in his research is the development of a framework that structures transitions in management activities and processes. Transition management is a new governance-model aimed at facilitating and directing societal change towards sustainability.  It is a form of participatory governance, which basic elements are envisioning, scenario development, shared agenda setting and experimenting. Its framework is developed through constant interaction between theory development and practical application in diverse social settings.

Part of this research is the so-called transition arena: a small network of selected innovators that reframe complex societal issues and develop alternative strategies. The objective is to lay the foundations for a much broader governance process. Professor Loorbach has been involved as researcher, facilitator, analyst and organizer of these arenas.