Participatory Action Research

Involving "All the Players" in Evaluation and Change



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"In so many evaluations," said a program officer, "no one thinks to ask the users." Participatory action research offers grantmakers a way to do so. It engages all parties in all aspects of an evaluation, from defining the problem to gathering and analyzing data to preparing recommendations. In this guide, learn about a unique evaluation method and how grantmakers used it to evaluate programs in agriculture, early childhood development, and immigration. Part of our series on evaluation techniques.

  • Ensuring a rigorous approach and objective results
  • Developing trusting partnerships as part of an evaluation
  • Building the conditions for a successful PAR evaluation
  • Two mini-case studies

As grantmakers, we want evaluation and assessment techniques that help document and analyze the work we support in ways that are meaningful to our foundations, grantees, and wider field or community. To help grantmakers weigh the advantages of different approaches, GrantCraft offers Evaluation Techniques: A Series of Brief Guides.  Each guide explains the basics of one technique, answers common questions about its use, describes how some grantmakers are applying it, and includes a list of resources for readers who want to learn more.


"Not every evaluation project is appropriate for PAR. But when the day is done, if you’re trying to change practice, this is the vehicle."

- A foundation president on using
participatory action research

"PAR defines all stakeholders as experts with important knowledge and perspectives."

- A grantmaker who has used the technique

"PAR challenges the firewalls that many foundations put in between themselves and evaluations."

- A researcher on how PAR can bring grantmakers
into the evaluation process