A few years ago, my best friends asked me to be the made of honor at their wedding. I was so happy and honored that they trusted me with this very important role, but I was even happier that they were finally able to legally get married because they are gay. Us privileged people take many rights for granted while many marginalized groups have to fight for basic rights. Humans have undoubtedly evolved from hunter-gatherers into sophisticated and well-informed beings, however there are still many groups and subcultures that do not enjoy equal rights and certain liberties. Marijuana is still considered a schedule I drug in the United States, and there are still thousands of people serving time in prisons for either selling or possession of marijuana. There are numbers of states in America that prohibit women to make decisions about abortion at six weeks. Women still get paid less than men for doing the same job. The long list can go on, but there was a time when this list was even longer.
There was a time when slavery was legal, women didn’t have the right to vote, Blacks and Mexican-Americans had to use separate bathrooms, and only a few decades ago, these marginalized groups didn’t imagine life without segregation. Indeed, change came, but it didn’t happen overnight. Many years of fighting, protesting and advocating led by visionaries and freedom fighters such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa parks, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and many more, resulted in culture and social changes. Change is difficult to face and accept, but it’s also inevitable. It requires years of fighting the system, educating the public, and conducting research.
When studying public policies and social justice, basic research methods may not be the most pragmatic way of collecting data. Applied research is more commonly used to observe and evaluate social issues. Participatory action research is a relatively new area of research and is just trying to gain popularity. It has been criticized for its possible political bias, but many psychologists have broken the chains of these conservative and traditional views. Psychologists like Mary Brydon-Miller have used participatory action research to work with communities and implement positive social change. They argue that the best way to understand social issues is to work directly with community members and empower them to be actively involved in the research process. In this type of research, the researcher becomes involved within the community, and the community gets actively involved in the research process. Participatory action research uses empirical, interpretive and critical theories to study political and social issues (Brydon-Miller, 1997). Its qualitative and quantitative date provides a holistic view of social and political issues that need change. Societies go through constant change, and participatory action research helps implement cultural and behavioral modifications through observation and education.
Brydon-Miller, M. (1997). Participatory action research: Psychology and social change. Journal of Social Issues, vol 53. Pp 657-666