Following a one day workshop on participatory research with children and families in 2014, it was felt that there was a mandate to continue meeting in order to discuss issues surrounding participatory research and hence the idea of the cluster group was created. It is hoped that the cluster group will meet three times a year to focus upon innovations in participatory methods, as well as the conceptual and practical issues of engaging in participatory research.
The morning’s session focused on what makes research or practice participatory and in terms of research how does qualitative or quantitative research, for example, differ from participatory research?
The keynote was delivered by Dr Kay Tisdall, Professor of Childhood Policy, Programme Director MSc Childhood Studies and Co-director of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh and was entitled ‘Better knowledge, improved ethics and more inclusive? Participatory research methods with children and young people’. She focused on four questions:
- What is participation?
- What are participatory research methods?
- What are the claims of participatory research methods?
- What are the current challenges for participatory research methods and for adult researchers?
Kay has a particular interest in children’s rights and children’s legislation and policy and diverse research interests: methodological interests in research with children; theoretical interests in participation; collaboration and rights; policy interests in ‘joined up’ policy, particularly in relation to disability and children. Through her work, Kay has consistently challenged the powerful discourse that prevents many children and young people from participating in decision making, education and governance and her work continues to reflect on the ways in which researchers and practitioners might work together with children and young people in ways that are meaningful, participatory and respectful of the rights of each individual.
In-depth discussion took place around the claims of participatory research methods including how far do participatory methods bring about ‘better knowledge’ and what do we mean by better knowledge – better for whom? Kay led a creative exercise where there was an exploration as to how far we could really say that participatory methods resulted in ‘better knowledge’, were more ethical and more inclusive. Kay encouraged members to come and partner with the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships at Edinburgh University.
Dr Caroline Leeson and Julia Morgan then led a discussion about understandings of participatory research, central tenets of participatory research and to highlight the importance of working in partnership with research participants. They were keen to highlight the importance of the transfer of power in participatory research and how this is often a significant failure in research that purports to be participative.
The morning concluded with an excellent lunch which supported many lively debates and further fostered the development of links and relationships between academics from different faculties and practitioners. It is the intention of the cluster to continue to promote these relationships as many creative opportunities and partnerships are likely to arise as a consequence.