RPAR combines traditional legal analysis of the law on the books with rapid empirical data collection on the implementation of law in particular places. Interested people in a site city are trained to use a variety of simple tools including interviews, focus groups and surveys to find out how the law is being applied and how it influences the attitudes and behavior of people at risk.  The research is guided by a Community Action Board (CAB) that works over a period of 6-8 months to analyze the research findings and turn them into an action plan for change at the local and national levels.

In RPAR, a research team from a site city works with a Community Action Board (CAB) to collect three kinds of data:  laws and written policies relevant to health risks in the target populations; existing data on the epidemiological situation and the operation of the criminal justice system; and qualitative interviews with police, judges, prosecutors, drug users, sex workers and others who can describe how the laws are put into practice.  The data collection and interpretation are guided by the CAB, which develops an action plan and final report. RPAR is designed to be used by people who do not have extensive experience in policy or qualitative research. 

The RPAR Toolkit consists of 5 pairs of Tools and Training Materials Modules. Module I guides the organization of the RPAR process, including preliminary outreach activities as well as guidance on the recruitment and the initial convening of the Community Action Board.  Module II guides collection of the relevant law on the books together with the existing data on the operation of the criminal justice system (e.g., number of prisoners, crime statistics) and pertinent epidemiological information from existing sources.  Areas of law covered in IDU-oriented RPAR projects have included drug use, commercial sex work, HIV testing, medical privacy and antidiscrimination. 

Module III contains detailed guides and techniques for identifying interviewees, conducting interviews and focus groups, and organizing the gathered data. Module IV sets out the roadmap for data processing and the group-analysis process for the CAB.  This process is designed under the “network-based” model of local governance : CAB members and researchers collaborate in integrating their specialized knowledge with gathered data to build a “power map” depicting organizations and other actors in the community who influence the risk and policy environments for the populations in question.  To accomplish this, they use “problems and solutions” and “root causes” exercises to uncover a complex account of why people are at risk of HIV and other health problems in the community, and how risk-creating conditions can be changed. “Priority-setting” exercises and the power map help formulate an effective plan of action. 


Module V is a special unit dealing with research ethics issues, designed to help the local research team comply with principles of research ethics and concern for human subjects in research. 

An “RPA” (Rapid Policy Assessment) can be conducted to identify important policies and how they are being implemented using Modules II and III without the CAB intervention components of Modules I and IV.  Likewise, Module II can be used for collection of law on the books without research on implementation using Module III, and vice versa.

Last Updated: February 2006