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By Nadia Brookes, ARC KSS Co-production Theme Lead & Patient and Public Involvement Strategic Lead and Sarah Lloyd, ARC KSS Public Member

As part of this year's National Co-production Week (3-9 July), we thought it would be good to reflect on Community Participatory Action Research (CPAR), what this involves, how it can be used and where this has been working well.

Firstly, let's start with a definition. CPAR is a collaborative approach to research that involves all stakeholders throughout the research process, from identifying the research question, to developing data collection tools and the analysis and dissemination of findings.

It is based on the needs, issues and concerns of communities and the community-based organisations that work within them. It directly engages communities and community knowledge in the research process and supports and/or enhances actions that leads to community transformation and social change.

CPAR is often thought of as being a ‘cycle’: identifying issues - researching – planning – action – reflecting on the action and can be started anywhere within the cycle.

The core principles and values of CPAR are to make sure that community members drive the research and develop outcomes that they can use and to make changes in their own communities. It requires a high level of contact and interaction between researchers and the community.

The CPAR approach often uses research methods and tools that can be conducted in a participatory and democratic manner, that values genuine and meaningful participation in the research process. Which is why, in some projects, it's the community members themselves that conduct the research.

So, is there a link between CPAR and co-production, I hear you say? Well, there are some similarities but also some differences between CPAR and co-production. The main one is to do with issues of power. CPAR challenges established power relationships, whereas co-production is more focused on working in partnership where all perspectives are valued.

Our CPAR project

Health Education England South East (now part of NHS England SE) Schools of Public Health and the Office of Health Improvement and Disparities South East (OHID SE) are supporting a programme of training and mentoring for up to 30 community researchers from voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise organisations, the NHS and local authorities.

The programme supports organisations working with communities adversely affected by health inequalities to recruit, train and mentor their workforce in CPAR.

The broad area of focus this year is 'health inequalities experienced by marginalised groups due to the cost-of-living crisis'.

The Centre for Health Services Studies at the University of Kent and Fourth Wall Folkestone (a creative space focused on all things art and mental health), joined forces to put in an application, and we were successful. We were told that this was because our researchers were closely linked with the community and the additional support being offered by the university. They also said it was a unique proposal using art as a medium.

We have funding for three community researchers who will use Fourth Wall Folkestone as a hub to involve the local community in the project. Sarah Lloyd, a member of our ARC KSS co-production theme group, is one of those community researchers (alongside Karen and Katie).

Across the region, other community researchers have also been funded, one group in Kent and four in Sussex. We are just starting this process which will run until May/June 2024 with a kick-off meeting in Brighton this week which is very exciting.

For further information or support please contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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