Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Urban Studies


Planning and Urban Studies

Major Professor

Laska, Shirley

Second Advisor

Kiefer, John

Third Advisor

Gladstone, David

Fourth Advisor

Striffler, Steve


Each of us has knowledge but it is not complete. When we come together to listen, we learn, we grow in understanding and we can analyze better the course that needs to be taken. One thing I learned over the past several years is that words and their interpretation have power. Grand Bayou community member This dissertation examines the question of change in the non-community people who have interacted or come into contact with the Grand Bayou Participatory Action Research (PAR) project. Who Changes?, a book on institutionalizing participation in development, raises the issu of "where is the change?" in a participatory project (Blackburn1998). Fischer (2000), Forester (1992), and Wildavsky (1979) indicate that a participatory process is beneficial to all stages of planning policy development, and analysis. However, planners, academics, and practitioners who work with high risk communities are often of different cultures, values, and lived experience than those of the community. Despite the best intentions of these professionals, these differences may at times cause a disconnect from or a dismissal of the community's knowledge, values or validity claims as the participatory process transpires. The outside experts often fail to learn from the local communities or use the community's expertise. The Grand Bayou Participatory Action Research (PAR) project, funded in part by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, investigated the viability of PAR in a post-disaster recovery project. The NSF report revealed that the community did gain agency and political effectiveness; the study and evaluation, however, did not focus on the outside collaborators and their change. Freirian and Habermasian theories of conscientization and critical hermeneutics would assume that those engaged with the project have changed in some way through their learning experience and that change may be emancipatory. The change builds on a core tenet of PAR in developing relational knowledge while honoring the other. This study used a case study methodology utilizing multiple sources of evidence to explore the answer to this question. A better understanding of the change in outside collaborators in a PAR project can be helpful in developing a more holistic participatory community planning process.


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