The results of the research are as relevant as the voices that inform them. At the Research and Learning Center, we strive to seek perspectives that are often ignored or marginalized. Research that will generate a positive and lasting change must consider the experiences of people on all sides of a problem. "We do not believe that cycles of violence change unless the human rights of each and every person are respected," says Jeanne Rikkers, director of the Center for Research and Learning. "Even if we do not agree with them, their experiences must be taken into account, or the policies will not change and the cycle will continue".
The Cristosal Center for Research and Learning promotes learning and publishes knowledge about human development and security within a framework of human rights. Our goal is to build meaningful solutions by identifying and elevating the voices of actors from a range of vulnerable groups, including inmates, members of the LGBT community and Central American asylum seekers. We also organize intercultural seminars for the Global School in El Salvador. The Global School creates opportunities for community leaders, religious leaders, students and professionals from different cultural backgrounds to interact with each other and learn together how to promote and defend human rights through the lens of the Salvadoran experience.
Participatory Action Research (PAR) is a democratic and inclusive approach based on the perspectives of communities. The goal of PAR is to transform social environments through the process and the products of research. For Cristosal, it is a key component to strengthen the capacities of vulnerable groups to demand and exercise their rights.
Raising the voices that are often marginalized helps researchers to reach more complete conclusions and make better recommendations. By working closely with the people involved in a problem, researchers avoid the danger of proposing solutions that do not make sense to those who actually experience the problem.
Participatory Action Research is also an active way to defend human rights. It is a research process that not only yields valuable results, but also makes the population studied a little less vulnerable. "The most valuable skill for many people is knowing how to talk about their own experiences," says Jeanne. PAR equips people with tools to tell their stories in a way that is heard by decision makers. Find out more about the Participatory Action Research here.