Co-creating Insights through Participatory Research
2/1/17 / Matt Bruce
“We both know some things; neither of us knows everything. Working together we will both know more and we will both learn more about how to know”
~Patricia Maguire, in Doing Participatory Research
Do you need to hear from more than the usual suspects? Do you want your research to engage and empower people, rather than just study them like lab rats? Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone to create transformational research that provokes action?
If you answered yes to these questions, you might be interested in embarking in participatory research…and Corona can help!
Participatory research is a collaborative research approach that generates shared knowledge. The intention is to research with and for participants, rather than about them, and the process is as valuable as the results.
At its heart, participatory research involves engaging with a group of people, typically those who have experienced disenfranchisement, alienation, or oppression. Researchers are participants and participants are researchers; the research questions, methodologies, and analyses are co-created. Embedded in the process are cycles of new questions, reflections, negotiations, and research adjustments. In participatory research, knowledge and understanding are generated rather than discovered.
Language and context are keys to success. The language of participatory research can be informal, personal, and relative to the situation. Safe-spaces are created so that participants and researchers can speak freely and honestly, allowing for greater authenticity and reflection of reality. The contexts of the research, including the purpose, geography, and even funding source and sponsors, are made overt and are relevant to the interpretation.
Participatory research is not the most efficient process; it takes extra time to mutually align project goals and specify research questions. Additionally, participatory research does not assume that the results are unbiased. Indeed, it asserts that social research cannot avoid the bias that too often manifests unconsciously and goes unacknowledged. Instead, participatory researchers describe and accept their biases, drawing conclusions through this lens.
Why conduct participatory research? One reason is that the risks are mutual and the results benefit the participants just as much as they benefit the research conductor/sponsor. Results can also provoke changes such as increased equity, community empowerment, and social emancipation. When done appropriately, participatory research gives a strong and authentic voice to the participants, and hopefully, a greater awareness of their situation will lead to positive transformational changes.