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FELLOWSHIP INITIATIVE: OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATIONS ARMENIA
06.06.2018, 14:00

CALL FOR PROPOSALS PARTICIPATORY ACTION RESEARCH

OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATIONS ARMENIA (OSFA)

Open Society Foundations Armenia (OSFA) calls for proposals to participate in a new Fellowship initiative based on Participatory Action Research (PAR) methodology.

Open Society Foundations Armenia (OSFA) calls for proposals to participate in a new Fellowship initiative based on Participatory Action Research (PAR) methodology. PAR seeks to address social issues by actively engaging communities and individuals who most directly experience a social phenomenon in order: (1) to understand the issue, especially in its local context, and (2) to facilitate the actions of communities, and groups of individuals to experiment with possible responses or solutions to the issue. This innovative initiative is open to individuals of diverse backgrounds and experience. Fellows will have access to a resource person and have the opportunity to learn from each other while carrying out their projects.

Participatory Action Research (PAR) Methodology

PAR is a unique combination of research, activism and social science. As research, PAR seeks knowledge in terms of new understanding, as each individual’s understanding of his or her situation is subjective. At the same time, there is a more general and common understanding of any social issue. PAR seeks to facilitate each individual’s deeper understanding of their own reality about the social issue they experience, while also helping a community or group of individuals sharing the problem to build a shared understanding of their reality. Thus, PAR values general theories while also prioritizes local experience and understanding. Furthermore, in PAR, localized understanding facilitates action and activism; building a shared understanding helps participants take collective action in a way unique to their local context. Lastly, PAR is a social science because, pursuant to the methodology, collective actions are experiments, which are carried out and then evaluated and analyzed by participants, in order to improve the shared understanding of social phenomenon. Details about PAR methodology will be shared with prospective Fellows during the Fellowship informational meeting, and guidance on carrying out PAR methodology will be provided during the Fellowship process.

Program Benefits

PAR is a framework that promises benefits to those who participate. Individuals engaged in PAR gain following insights, about:

  • how one’s own background influences one’s perceptions of social frameworks;
  • how to develop, and why to value, a broader conception of knowledge and research, especially one which values the diverse perceptions of individuals living the social issue in the local context;
  • how to engage more productively with a variety of persons, each with distinct backgrounds and perspectives;
  • the potential role of equality in the construction of social realities as contrasted with power narratives or hierarchical, authoritative discourse.

For this Fellowship, PAR provides a forum of colleagues to facilitate learning from each other, a resource person for consultation, an opportunity to expand one’s research and activism tools, and a grant to facilitate one’s work. For their PAR projects, Fellows will receive individual grants of $1,000 (USD). Individual projects are expected to last five months. Estimated start of the projects is July 01, 2018. The grants may be renewed after a project evaluation. Working collectively, we seek to build a positive personal and professional experience for those involved.

Prospective Fellows

PAR joins research with collective action. For this reason, a prospective Fellow for this initiative is a person with experience — and highly motivated to engage in, both research and collective action in conjunction with participants (e.g. those experiencing the social issue). While some individuals may already have strong research and collective action experience, others may have strong experience in only one of these two aspects. For this reason, individuals may choose to work in a team of two, where each colleague complements the other in terms of research and collective action. Prospective Fellows may apply with individual projects or in a team of two. In addition to experience and interest in research and collective action, other useful skills and mindsets to carry out PAR include:

  • the ability to question oneself and one’s premises;
  • the ability to engage with others as equals while also inspiring them to think critically, creatively, and beyond standard social conventions;
  • the willingness to experiment with potential solutions in a scientific manner;
  • interest in a long term engagement to positively impact the proposed social issue.

Please note that PAR requires a long-term commitment from Fellows because those participants who experience the social issue, and engage with Fellows in this process will expect and deserve a degree of reciprocity in commitment. Also, actual, positive change usually manifests gradually over time. Fellows should consider if they are ready to continue their engagement after the Fellowship formally ends. Lastly, although PAR is often associated with the health and education fields, it is likewise adaptable and appropriate for all fields of study and collective action.

Process, Expectations and Support

PAR is principally self-sustaining consultation and experimentation to improve the lives of those involved. Such consultation and experimentation is multifaceted. It is expected that Fellows will consult with participants, those who experience the social phenomenon, in a variety of ways, and with various aims, but principally to follow the cyclical process of PAR methodology, including to:

  • assist each participant to enhance their own perception of their reality in relation to the social phenomenon;
  • facilitate a consensus among participants for a shared understanding, and ultimately a plan of action;
  • assist participants to carry out actions;
  • engage participants in an evaluation and analysis of past actions resulting in an expanded understanding and new plan of action to improve the social situation.

To help Fellows carry out a PAR project this Fellowship provides Fellows with a PAR resource person for consultations and a monthly forum for Fellows to consult with each other about:

  • their engagement with their project participants;
  • new approaches or means of engagement;
  • potential alliances and collective action as between projects;
  • unique conceptions for fostering a self-sustainable PAR process in the communities with whom Fellows work.

During the monthly meetings, Fellows may identify types of assistance that would facilitate their projects and facilitate the PAR process in the Armenian context. The resource person will seek to respond to any identified needs in subsequent meetings. The monthly meeting discussions may also serve to help Fellows merge international best practice with local knowledge and understanding, and to facilitate an improved understanding of the intersection between research and collective action. For these reasons, Fellows are expected to attend monthly meetings. Importantly, Fellows are expected to engage with their participants on a monthly basis before each Fellows’ meeting.

Application Procedures

PAR conceives of social issues in terms of the populations or communities that live them. Prospective Fellows should articulate the social issue under investigation and identify the community that is most directly affected, as well as any subsets of such community that experience the social phenomenon to a greater degree. Prospective Fellows should have a plan about how to engage with the community and how to seek out participants for PAR-specific consultation and action. Other PAR projects have utilized a combination of home visits, community gatherings (from educational discussions to fun, social events), or community work projects. Prospective Fellows should consider how they could use their background to engage with prospective participants, individually and collectively, to achieve the PAR-specific consultation and experimental action, which is discussed above. Applicants are required to submit PAR Proposal Form by carefully addressing the framework designed for proposal submission and evaluation. All applicants will be informed about the results of competition. Shortlisted applicants may be invited to attend an interview.

Proposal Deadline and Information Session

All interested applicants should submit the Proposal Form in English (Appendix, page 4) and a CV to OSF‐Armenia electronically via register@osi.am by Monday, June 18, 2018 17:00 Applicants will receive an electronic confirmation of application receipt to their e‐mail in a period of two working days after submission. If no confirmation email is received — to check the receipt of your application — contact us by phone (+37410) 533 862; 536 758. For questions and additional information about the PAR Fellowship, please contact resource person Vahan Bournazian by email at bournazian@gmail.com

APPENDIX: PROPOSAL FORM

PAR Fellowship Initiative Call for Proposals 2018
This form is designed to offer a specific framework for PAR proposal submission and evaluation. The form highlights key sections, detailed attention to which is highly appreciated. Please be clear and concise.

Project Title and Social Issue

First, articulate a title for your project and identify the thematic area. Second, based on your initial or past research, describe the specific social issue that your project plans to address and do so from an academic or research-based perspective. Third, based on your own experience, or in consultation with those active on the issue, describe your current understanding of the social dynamics that are in play around the issue: consider and describe direct and indirect stakeholders as well as the potential motivations and perceived or promoted premises of each stakeholder in regard to the social phenomenon that is the subject of your inquiry. Exercising your best judgement, please be clear and concise.

Populations, Communities and Prospective Participants

First, define the population or community, which most directly experiences the social issue and with whom you plan to engage during the project. Second, describe an outreach plan to engage with the community and develop a core group of participants with whom you will be able to engage in a PAR process of self-sustaining, reflective inquiry and experimental action, as described above. Exercising your best judgement please be clear and concise.

Personal Interests, Goals and Suitability as a Fellow

First, describe your personal interest in this project, any experience, and any future personal goals that are specifically relevant to the social issue and/or the identified community. Second, describe what personal skills and experience you will call on in order to engage the identified community or prospective participants in a self-sustaining process of reflective inquiry and experimental action. If applying in a team of two, describe these interests, goals and the suitability of each team member. Exercising your best judgement, please be clear and concise.

Potential for Self-Sustaining Reflective Inquiry and Experimental Action (Deliverable)

Based on the factors you describe above, please assess and articulate the potential of this project in terms of becoming a self-sustaining or ongoing process of reflective inquiry and experimental action by participants. Exercising your best judgement, please be clear and concise.

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