Opening the Black Box of Participatory Action Research in Response to the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Nepal and Bangladesh

How, for whom, and under what conditions does Participatory Action Research (PAR) generate innovation to tackle the drivers of the worst forms of child labour (WFCL)?

This paper presents the findings of a realist evaluation that investigated how PAR groups facilitated children who work in exploitative and harmful labour and business owners in the leather industry in Bangladesh and the adult entertainment sector in Nepal to generate innovative actions. These PAR groups were facilitated over a period of 18 months to two years by non-governmental organisation professionals trained in PAR approaches.

PAR is defined as a knowledge-, action-, and innovation-generating intervention that enabled a group of children or business owners to meet over a period of time to build evidence, generate theories of change, develop and implement innovative solutions, and reflect on and evaluate how these solutions were working (or not). Our evidence showed that PAR generated innovative solutions to WFCL through raising group members’ critical consciousness of the underlying causal dynamics that drive WFCL.

This critical consciousness-raising was done through gathering their own evidence and reflecting on their own experiences, as well as through developing their own theory of change through which they could identify on which part of the causal chain they could take action. Furthermore, PAR processes allowed groups of individuals, who because of their experience of marginalisation in urban settings did not have opportunities to come together, to build a collective identity that was grounded in their shared experiences and a common goal to take action to tackle these issues.

This collective identity allowed them, as a new collective that was more than the sum of its parts, to develop innovative actions. Finally, by taking action and reflecting on these actions, PAR group members were able to harness their experiential knowledge on causal and power dynamics that underpinned and perpetuated their issues and use this new knowledge to develop further innovative actions.


Snijder, M. et al. (2024) Opening the Black Box of Participatory Action Research in Response to the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Nepal and Bangladesh, CLARISSA Research and Evidence Paper 14, Brighton: Institute of Development Studies, DOI: 10.19088/CLARISSA.2024.009

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July 11, 2024
July 2024
Institute of Development Studies
Mieke Snijder, Marina Apgar, Jiniya Afroze, Amit Arulanantham, Jacky Hicks, Shanta Karki, Sophie Mareschal, Sukanta Paul, Forhad Uddin & Helen Veitch