Since 2016, Penn State Center Philadelphia has championed the use of participatory methods with Philadelphia-based partners, including support for co-researcher teams of faculty and community members. Participatory action research (PAR) and related participatory methods seek to understand and improve the world by changing it.
PAR is a best practice for university-community engagement because it offers an approach that centers knowledge production in communities, connecting the most dynamic assets of universities and communities in an equitable relationship. Community members are valued as experts and become co-researchers who learn systematically how to investigate and innovate solutions to the problems they are impacted by instead of being researched by outside experts.
Community Engagement and Leadership Development
Penn State Center Philadelphia offers (in-person and virtual) consulting and technical assistance to Philadelphia community organizations to co-create new initiatives and programs. This collaboration increases capacity of community and professional leadership to be self-determining in envisioning and implementing processes for change. Such programming builds from previous initiatives (the People’s Kitchen, Neighborhood Empowerment Forums, Community Schools Ambassador Program, etc.) and draws on the knowledge and experience of Penn State faculty, students, and staff.
Through long-term engagement with community partners, Penn State Center Philadelphia identifies community leaders who can offer consultation services to incubate new initiatives. Community consultants work closely with Center staff and community partners on specific projects that are underway to ensure implementation and future steps to strengthen community impact.
Regional Participatory Research Hub
The Center activates PAR in its work to strengthen community organizing that impacts public sector institutions and engages with public leaders. Philadelphia’s sphere of education justice has been the primary site for past and current research. PAR has also contributed to and/or been inspired by other areas of the Center’s community engagement and engaged scholarship (People’s Kitchen in Philadelphia and the Consortium for Social Movements and Education Research and Practice at Penn State).