Introduction to Community Action Research

A community profile (as we use the term) is a description of a community which does not include substantial discussion of theory. It is typically a document produced for practical reasons. A community study includes theoretical discussion or critical analysis about the community described. Both are documents, which are documents which may inform, or be useful to, a process of social change in the community. The are not part of the change process per se. Community action research is a process in which information gathering, learning about a community, critical analysis, producing a profile or study and a process of social change can be integrated into a single cyclical process.

Community action research is:

  • Participatory: it involves members of the community at all stages of the research process.
  • Empowering: community members act on their own behalf.
  • Emancipatory: it involves action to make life better for members of the community.
  • Learning: it involves participants learning or discovering new things relevant to their own lives and situation;
  • Research: it involves the growth and publication of knowledge.

In a community action research project, a community profile or study would be part of a process of change, and not an end in itself.

Briefly, in community action research an action group is formed  where most of the members of the action group are community members. The action group  works with other members of the community in a social action process to bring about improvements which are desired by community members. As part of this the action group and other participants learn more about the community they are part of, engage in critical dialogue, prepare an implement a plan for social change, and evaluate the effects of their action.