Opinions

What collaborative or participatory research offers…

Written by: Kerry Musselbrook, Project Manager, Iriss

Collaborating for Impact. The difference third sector and academic research partnerships can make.

More collaborative and participatory approaches to research is something that I think we need more of – combining the strengths of academic or ‘professional researchers’ and people with lived experience. It makes for better research and greater application and impact, I think.

The third sector can be a useful route to involving people with lived experience in research and evidence production, either as user-led organisations themselves or through their community links.

Let’s be clear on what collaborative and participatory approaches offer. For one, involving people traditionally seen as ‘ subjects’ of research as active agents, shaping the agenda/research questions, the inquiry process and (ideally) subsequent recommendations and actions, with potential for co-delivery of these. This recognises their expertise as partners in ‘all of it’ and contributes to more active democracy and better use of evidence.

Participatory research in particular has potential to bring in marginalised and unheard groups to inform and influence policy and practice, albeit this remains a challenge. If research depends on funding, then funders have a large part to play in determining what is funded – and whose agenda, voices and ideas are heard! We need more programmes like the DRILL one. Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning is an innovative 5 year UK-wide Programme which will end August 2020. It’s led by disabled people, for disabled people and funded by the National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF), promoting coproduction and collaboration between disabled people and their organisations, academia, research bodies and policy makers.

So, to end…I began my career as traditional ‘expert’ researcher in the social sciences. However, time, experience and reflection have challenged lazy and easy notions around researcher neutrality and objectivity that uphold: either too privileged a position for the researcher – the one who analyses and authors any ‘recommendations’ responding to a funder’s agenda; or connected to that, too ineffectual a position!  It’s not quite as simple as all that, of course, but you get my drift….

Come along to the Third Sector Research Forum conference (this link will take you away from our website) on the 9th October, to be inspired and learn from others who are using collaborative approaches to achieve real impact!

Find out more and read Louise Bowen’s piece on How to get involved in the Third Sector Research Forum conference.

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