Plan participatory research to build evidence base

Activity 2.5

Plan participatory research to build evidence base


Understanding participatory research principles can help gender analysts engage in and/or understand research that supports giving voice to those who are under-represented, shifting decision making, problem identification and problem solving from top-down, to bottom-up.

  • Why is participatory research critical for gender analysis?
  • How do I plan participatory research?

Participatory research is an approach to research in communities that engages directly with those affected by an policy, issue or programme. It emphasizes democratic, participatory research methods and approaches that engage and empower local communities in the research and its outcomes.  It involves the community taking a leading role, collaborative role at every stage. Participatory research uses a variety of methods to engage with communities.

Why is participatory research critical for gender analysis?

Gender-sensitive participatory research can,

  • Give voice to under-represented groups
  • Empower local communities as they share knowledge, build networks and discuss meaningful changes
  • Ensure policy reflects gender realities and lived experience on the ground

It involves identifying communities, establishing trusted relationships, building relationships and working together to develop and implement research methods and data collection, and collaborate on findings, analysis and learnings.

Participatory research supports better policy development by bringing the needs and voices of those people impacted by policy to the forefront, strengthening transparency and accountability.

How do I plan participatory research?

When planning or commissioning participatory research it is important to understand its key principles. This includes who is to be included in the research and how; and opportunities, access, and public participation in your communities of interest.

Participatory research needs to be undertaken in engaged and democratic ways that offer meaningful and genuine engagement. This requires adequate time, resources and planning, high levels of research and gender expertise, connections within the communities, and clear objectives of engagement.

There are five key principles when engaging in participatory research to guide research design and engagement:

  1. Recognize stakeholders’ right to be involved and participate
  2. Engage with under-represented voices
  3. Value local knowledge, lived experience, and cultural knowledge
  4. Be collaborative and transparent
  5. Use locally sensitive engagement methods

It is good to have insight into the number of participatory research frameworks that can be used, depending on the outcomes required. For example, see the list of Research Frameworks, Orientations and Approaches in Participatory Research Methods.

At each stage of the research design and implementation, researchers have to determine what participatory engagement is required and the method that is to be used. This can be broken down by stage if required. Your research can then choose many or few  participatory methods depending on what is required. For example,

What step are you in the research process? An example participatory method
Set up / partnering Community advisory boards
Co-research groups
Designing research questions Action learning settings
Story telling groups
Collecting data Concept mapping
Narrative workshops
Analysing and interpreting data Participatory data analysis and interpretation
Disseminating and acting Urban community planning
Developmental evaluation

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