Participatory Action Research in Times of COVID-19: Adapting Approaches with Refugee-Led Community-Based Organizations

Online Publication Date:
October 1, 2021
Publication Status:
Published Article MUSE Link:
Manuscript PDF File:

**Published in Progress in Community Health Partnerships (PCHP) volume 16.2S. All rights reserved.**
Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a greater health impact on ethnoracial minorities, including migrants. Migrants in marginalized communities are harder to reach for health information sharing. Meanwhile, the pandemic has impacted in-person, community-based research. Such research is important during a pandemic, warranting the adaptation of engagement methods.
Objectives: This study analyzes methodological processes for adapting community-based research to a virtual environment due to COVID-19 restrictions. Our participatory action research (PAR), with refugee- and immigrant-run community-based organizations (RI-CBOs) in a U.S. midwestern metropolitan area, sought to understand organizational activities, including COVID-19 responses, and foster organizational capacity building.
Methods: Partnered with one RI-CBO, we co-developed three methods. Netnography facilitated non-participant observation of the RI-CBO’s online meetings to inform the community about the pandemic. Online surveys were designed to document the RI-CBO’s activities while serving as a foundation to develop a sustainable record-keeping system. Remote interviews sought to contextualize the data.
Results: The methodological transition to an online environment prioritized interaction, focusing on user friendliness and efficiency. Community partners intensively engaged in the adaptation process. Netnography captured how the RI-CBO used multimedia to connect community members with COVID-19 information and resources. Surveys and interviews provided data about organizational activities as the pandemic spread and community needs increased.
Conclusions: Adapting to online modalities drew on four priorities: ease of access, time sensitivity, capacity building, and co-production of data. Methodological insights may be applicable to PAR with RI-CBOs and other CBOs in the face of challenges similar to those prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.