During COVID community kitchens provided a special treat during Ramadan in Cape Town. These initiatives were described in an article in the special issue discussing participatory action research during COVID.' (Source: Caroline Peters, 2023)

Launch of Special Issue on Participatory Action Research in a Time of COVID and Beyond

The outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020 was a challenge for any practitioner intent on engaging in authentic dialogue for people-centered, place-based transformative praxis with the most marginalized in society–be they in Europe or the Majority World. The pandemic called on us to explore new and creative methodological approaches, to find new ways to manage the everyday challenges of project management and facilitation, and to stimulate critical thinking about the ethics and principles of undertaking PAR when travel is curtailed. It also raised important questions about the value of our work, in a context that was possibly altering the precepts of PAR itself, if not the need and reasons for it.

In 2021 AgroecologyNow researchers George McAllister, Nina Moeller, Priscilla Claeys and Stefanie Lemke (also University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna) were joined by Sandra Bhatasara (University of Zimbabwe), Joanna Howard (IDS, UK) and Katharine McKinnon (University of Canberra) to guest edit and invite contributions from researchers and activists grappling with these questions.

Special Issue

The result is a special issue in the academic journal Frontiers in Sustainable Development that explores how researchers identifying their work as “participatory” adapted to the pandemic. It analyses how remote and virtual ways of conducting fieldwork affect the power imbalances in the researcher-participant relationship, and to what extent the pandemic might foster new opportunities to build capacity to conduct research. It further asks how knowledge co-production, co-facilitation, and co-analysis can be supported remotely, and which tools might be helpful. These questions are highly relevant to all scholar-activists and researcher-practitioners, whether using participatory or non-participatory approaches, and who will need to adapt in an increasingly uncertain future.

The 10 articles vary in scale and ambition – from a multi-actor project for city food systems in Belgium (Medina-García et al.) and across multiple cities (Manderscheid et al.) to a feminist food collective in Cape Town (Paganini et al.), farm-scale agroecological learning in Puerto Rico (Félix and Sanfiorenzo), adaptation practices among local livestock-keepers in East Africa (Habermann et al.), and ecosystem-based assessments by farmers in Tajikistan (Spies et al.).

Others focused on reconfiguring power through PAR (McKinnon et al.), navigating qualitative research (Gailloux, et al.), and the displacement of the scholar in the neoliberal university (Auerbach, Muñoz, Affiah et al.Auerbach, Muñoz, Walsh et al.).


Please click here to read the full version of the editorial that provides an overview of the special issue.

All articles are available freely on the journal website, click here to access.

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