Participatory action research (PAR) is an approach which emphasises the importance of working with a community collaboratively to bring change when addressing issues or problems affecting the population.
PAR is distinct from more traditional research methods in its definition of expertise, placing this firmly in the hands of the community members rather than external researchers.
The Trumpeter Community Health Project is one programme that is based on this approach, placing the community, and especially its leaders, at the centre of the work throughout its tenure:
- During the design stage of each Trumpeter initiative in different areas of Juba, the community is involved by selecting those who will fulfil the role of Trumpeter Community Health workers, called ‘Trumpeters’. Local people understand and know each other so they are best placed to choose who among them is most suited to be a Trumpeter.
- Throughout the implementation of the project, community members are invited for meetings with other stakeholders. Community dialogue is important as it opens the door to feedback and quickly resolves challenges that local people perceive in the project.
- Village chiefs are also invited for one-to-one dialogue which furthers the scope of community engagement as chiefs represent the needs and opinions of the people.
Community participation is so important in the work of the Trumpeters because their success hinges on the extent to which the community adopts new ways of living. If the Trumpeters do not speak into the issues people face and propose tangible solutions, their work is in vain. However, because of their commitment to including community voices at every stage of the process, the Trumpeters’ work is reaping dividends.
Whole suburbs of Juba are turning their backs on damaging living patterns (eg using dirty water, open defecation) and embracing the alternatives advocated by the Trumpeters. Households are applying new sanitation and hygiene knowledge and investing in latrines, soap, chlorine tablets and other expenses that can greatly improve health. This is largely attributable to the Trumpeters’ efforts to centre all of their work on community needs and community involvement.