Dark clouds in co-creation, and their silver linings: Practical challenges we faced in a participatory project in a resource-constrained community in India, and how we overcame (some of) them

Preeti Sushama*, Cristian Ghergu, Agnes Meershoek, Luc P. de Witte, Onno C. P. van Schayck, Anja Krumeich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Web of Science)


Background: While any type of field-based research is challenging, building action-oriented, participatory research in resource-constrained settings can be even more so. Objective: In this article, we aim to examine and provide insights into some of the practical challenges that were faced during the course of a participatory project based in two non-notified slums in Bangalore, India, aiming to build solutions to indoor air pollution from cooking on traditional cook stoves. Methods: The article draws upon experiences of the authors as field researchers engaged in a community-based project that adopted an exploratory, iterative design to its planning and implementation, which involved community visits, semi-structured interviews, prioritization workshops, community forums, photo voice activities, chulha-building sessions and cooking trials. Results: The main obstacles to field work were linked to fostering open, continued dialogue with the community, aimed at bridging the gap between the 'scientific' and the 'local' worlds. Language and cultural barriers led to a reliance on interpreters, which affected both the quality of the interaction as well as the relationship between the researchers and the community that was built out of that interaction. The transience in housing and location of members of the community also led to difficulties in following up on incomplete information. Furthermore, facilitating meaningful participation from the people within the context of restricted resources, differing priorities, and sociocultural diversity was particularly challenging. These were further compounded by the constraints of time and finances brought on by the embeddedness of the project within institutional frameworks and conventional research requirements of a fixed, pre-planned and externally determined focus, timeline, activities and benchmarks for the project. Conclusions: This article calls for revisiting of scientific conventions and funding prerequisites, in order to create spaces that support flexible, emergent and adaptive field-based research projects which can respond effectively to the needs and priorities of the community.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1421342
Number of pages7
JournalGlobal Health Action
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2018


  • Participatory action research
  • urban slums
  • dialogue with community
  • challenges
  • research conventions
  • Cooking
  • Humans
  • Research Personnel/organization & administration
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Community-Based Participatory Research/economics
  • Health Promotion/organization & administration
  • India
  • Cultural Competency
  • Language
  • Poverty Areas
  • Communication

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