Why PAR?

Market growth in PAR training is driven by rising public and agency awareness of the central importance of community engagement to the ultimate success of projects that impact communities. This has created a large market void for consultants who can advise, train and certify clients in techniques of participatory research.

In collaborative stakeholder involvement, planners are challenged to actually bring real people—the general public—into the room.  Participatory research improves public decision making by moving the 'room' to the people.

Cultural frameworks experienced since childhood—ones that work and ones that don't—more readily direct the future than the best laid plans. Without looking at why people behave as they do by talking with them directly, we fail to bring common sense into the formulation of public solutions.  Simplistic psychological constructs and opinion polls are a meager substitute for actual conversation. 

Culture is the set of assumptions under which we operate.  Cultural values are the inner logic of a society (Gardner and Lewis, 1996).

The natural setting shapes cultures and cultures in turn shape the natural setting (Kottack, 1999).

In response to the ill-fated premise that all 'technical' progress is good, excellent results can be achieved through solutions that build on local knowledge and interests. Community well-being and ecosystem stewardship are cross-cutting values that glue “the people” together beyond any polemic. This new optic is particularly important in adapting to and in reversing the trends that have lead to climate change.

  • epi's climate change solution is renewable energy development that also takes into account community well-being and ecosystem stewardship.
  • epi's economic solution is to focus on community assets to rebuild local economies so as to better leverage government spending.
  • epi's poverty solution is to restore and preserve ecological systems and cultural integrity tied to food production, home building, cooking fuel, heat, clothing and more.
We owe it to ourselves to link direct observation of people’s habits, choices and hopes to how we allocate public resources, ensure livelihood, protect ecological systems and address many more pressing challenges of our time.  The Institute helps people build the road to sustainability in local and regional economies.