The Life Drama Project makes use of applied theatre & performance techniques to promote sexual health & wellbeing in Papua New Guinea, the Pacific and Northern Australia.

Participatory Action Research

3.1 Participatory Action Research

What is PAR?

Action Research is generally considered a process for achieving change and research at the same time. It is viewed as a spiralling, iterative process, with each cycle feeding into the next. A typical cycle involves the following stages:

The PAR Process

At the “Plan” stage, the researchers determine the problem to be solved, the steps to be taken to solve the problem, and the methods to be used to evaluate how successful the solution has been. At the “Act” stage, the agreed steps are taken. At the “Collect” stage, the researchers collect data to determine whether change has occurred. At the “Reflect” stage, the researchers analyse the data, discuss the findings, and determine to what extent the “action” has helped to solve the problem. As a result of this reflection, further planning occurs, to decide what needs to happen next, and the cycle begins again.

Participatory Action Research places specific emphasis on power relationships, advocating for power to be deliberately shared between the “researchers” and the “researched”. Ideally, the “researched”, or the people who are expected to benefit from the action research project, are not “objects” or “subjects” or research but partners in the research process. They participate in planning, acting, collecting data, reflecting, and deciding how the action research cycle should continue in the next phase. In particular, the participants or co-researchers play a major role in nominating indicators, or criteria by which the project can be said to have succeeded.

Life Drama as PAR

Life Drama is a Participatory Action Research project, in that it:

  • uses an iterative Action Research framework
  • seeks to empower participants in the research to act as co-researchers
  • involves the participants in determining criteria for the project’s success

Partner Feedback

Input from Life Drama’s partner organisations is sought at each stage of the research process, primarily through the following mechanisms:

  • annual Stakeholder Meeting in Port Moresby
  • visits by Life Drama researchers to partner organisations in Port Moresby, Goroka, Madang, and Tari
  • formal interviews and informal conversations with individuals associated with partner organisations
  • email and telephone consultation

To date, input from partners has focussed on:

  • research design
  • research indicators
  • selection of pilot sites and participants
  • models for disseminating research findings
  • the provision of factual information regarding sexual health, HIV and AIDS, health services in PNG
  • the provision of information on community education models in PNG
  • cross-cultural issues and cultural safety for participants and researchers
  • safety and security issues for researchers and participants

Participant Feedback

Life Drama participants provide input to the project at each stage of the research, primarily through the following mechanisms:

  • community entry and community consultation processes
  • assisting with data collection, using journals and photography
  • reflecting on the research process using discussion and performance
  • providing formal interviews and allowing the Life Drama team to video their practice during evaluation visits
  • informal conversations with members of the Life Drama team

To date, input from participants has focussed on:

  • enabling factors and challenges to implementing Life Drama with groups in the community
  • appropriate language to use when discussing sex, body parts, and sexual health, in different contexts
  • handbook design and written materials
  • selection and support of future participants

The Theatre Exchange Workshop in Madang in early 2009 was an example of Participatory Action Research. The Life Drama team researched with ex-members of Raun Raun Theatre ways in which Life Drama can be enriched by incorporating indigenous performance forms.

More about PAR

For more information on Participatory Action Research, visit the following sites: