Participatory Action Research: Some Personal Reflections

The highlight of the long awaited return of the PROUT UTC was the activist workshop on Participatory
Action Research. This system helps us learn about ourselves and our environment through teams that
explore the needs and solutions to problems in our communities. First, all participants gathered to
hear brief, yet inspiring introductions to the history and culture of the area surrounding the Ananda
Kanan retreat center in the Ozarks. Four teams were assigned to explore four issues: Environment,
Population & Poverty, Economic Stability, and Native Americans. All participants in these groups were
very inspired by what they learned by meeting and interviewing various people in the community.

I feel the success of this project stem, in part, from the comprehensive preparatory work done by the
facilitators, Allan Rosen and Matt Oppenheim. For months before the PROUT UTC workshop, they conducted
research and made phone calls to set up meetings with local leaders and groups.

I would encourage anyone
who takes part in such a workshop to get involved by helping to conduct follow-ups with the contacts
already established, and, if possible, continue to make new ones. It would be great for the locals to
know that we are indeed concerned about their communityís welfare and are willing to help find solutions
to some of the problems in their area.

Next year, during the Global PROUT Conference, we can again get an outlet for the activist spirit in us
all by meeting with the same local people and activists. Like us, they are attempting to solve their
problems in a coordinated, maybe even Proutistic, manner. My personal experiences during the PAR
workshop were very inspiring. I participated in the Environmental Research Group. At fist, we were given
a very informative presentation by a local Natural Resource Management team, which included a question
and answer session. We explored the history of settlements in the Ozarks and its impact on topography,
flora, and fauna. We then visited the local swimming pool. There we interviewed two high school students
about their awareness of environmental issues. One of the boys said that the creek near his backyard was
used by residents as a dump for broken toys, appliances, car parts, and even used motor oil. After our
conversation, we went to explore this area and gathered photographic evidence of the debris scattered along
the creek.

Lastly we conducted some interviews at the University. In summary, I found that environmental problems
were not a high priority amongst the people in this area. Instead, most people were afraid of loosing
the small town atmosphere they have been accustomed to. Everybody knows each other by name and wave to
friends and neighbors when passing by in cars or on bicycles. The recent additions of a shopping-mall,
a new highway, several parking lots, and the associated traffic were changes not accepted open-heartedly.
Nonetheless, a warm smile and a friendly "hello" from a passersby helps ease the growing pains experienced
by this community so rich in its heritage.

Volume 9, No. 2, Summer 2002 [Exact date not known ]

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