PARTICIPATORY RESEARCH IN COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT: A CASE STUDY OF CREATING CULTURAL TOURISM PRODUCTS
Although participatory research can be an improvement over conventional research, there is a lack of self-critique and self-reflection by scholars. The aim of this paper was to develop a method of participatory research in human geography based on a case study of the local community. We evaluated the positive and negative aspects of carrying out participatory research in community development from the local community and academic points of view. The participatory method was used in a rural local community in Slovenia, where cultural values were identified as an alternative developmental source. The method was presented in detail in three steps: 1) knowledge acquisition, 2) knowledge synthesis, 3) knowledge implementation and evaluation. The results yielded important social impacts, some economic and cultural impacts, and no significant ecological impacts. The paper discusses the impacts of conducting such research on the local community. It recognizes that, if the community is actively engaged in research, outcomes are likely to be matched to its needs and expectations. We discussed scholars’ bias towards economic aspects of community development and the fact that ignoring local knowledge may result in the failure of developmental initiatives. There is a need for more accurate and unbiased critical assessment of long-term impacts of carrying out
participatory research. We believe we avoided two common traps of participatory research: regarding the positivist critique, this method offers sufficient scientific vigour and could be reproduced in similar communities; regarding the post-structural critique, personally committing stakeholders towards implementation and legitimising all social groups to overcome intrinsic power relations within the community. We concluded that participatory methods are important for obtaining local knowledge that complements traditional academic research.