In this edition of MethodsNews that looks back on 2016, one highlight must be the way in which NCRM has increasingly been engaging with – and supporting – the challenge of Inclusive Research. Inclusive Research is a useful umbrella term for the various participatory, emancipatory and partnership research approaches that re-position research subjects as experts by experience and as active agents in the research, sometimes demanding new methods.
How to do research with rather than on the people the research is about is gathering interest nationally and internationally. Participatory methods was flagged as an area of training need among qualitative researchers in the latest NCRM training needs analysis1. This is part of the democratization of research that we discussed in the 2014 Research Methods Festival2 where What is Inclusive Research?3 (in the NCRM What is? book series) was also launched. Since then I have seen growing capacity to do and support research that has an element of co-production with different community groups.
This year the NCRM Annual Centre meeting welcomed a preview by Umut Erel of The Open University of a new NCRM research project on Participatory Arts and Social Action Research exploring the potential of participatory theatre and walking methods for co-producing knowledge. This project particularly concerns methods that engage marginalized groups such as migrant families and developing materials for others to use. The NCRM Pedagogy of Methodological Learning study is an attempt to develop an understanding of research methods pedagogy that is generated with methods teachers and methods learners. At the 2016 Research Methods Festival, Ros Edwards of NCRM convened a session on post-colonial and indigenous research, including presentations from Bagele Chilisa, Helen Moewaka and Deborah McGregor that stimulated rich discussion about respectful research relationships, cultural sensitivity and the new roles for indigenous people in research in Botswana, New Zealand, Canada and beyond. Contributors to this session are also contributing to a special issue of Qualitative Research Journal on democratising qualitative research methods guest edited by Rosalind Edwards and Tula Brannelly.
This was also a year for supporting the development of inclusive research in Finland and Norway, where colleagues in the field of intellectual disabilities are pushing forward drives to transform the dynamics of research with people with intellectual disability. I was pleased to join researchers, some with intellectual disabilities, from Finland and Iceland for a preconference of the Nordic Educational Research Association annual conference in Helsinki presenting on the theme of how methodological practices in doing research together can work as empowering and learning spaces. Facilitator, Katariina Hakala from the Finnish Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities has since visited the University of Southampton to present research on developing the participation of service users in the planning of their own community-based services in a study of Successful Choices. Similarly, the ‘It’s the way I like it!’ project group from Norway who are doing Inclusive Research about self-determination in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities came here to present and join discussions on how inclusive research can make an impact on people’s lives.
I have just returned from a seminar and meeting of researchers from across Norway who are, with our support, establishing a national Inclusive Research network. The network, initiated by May Østby of Molde University College and Anita Gjermestad of VID Specialized University, aims to build and exchange knowledge and competencies in research together with people with intellectual disability, developing methodological approaches and strategies for collaboration across communities.
The significance of all this is that not only is the need to build capacity in Inclusive Research being recognized by NCRM and internationally, but that we are reaching out to work across countries and community groups that are marginalized in different ways to meet that need. As a Centre committed to increasing the quality and range of methodological approaches used by UK social scientists it is vital that we involve as partners and collaborators people whose lives can be improved by respectful engagement in generating knowledge in the spirit of ‘nothing about us without us’. It is also vital that we work together with international collaborators on building a bank of research resources to support the sustainability of developments and further innovations. I look forward to seeing what 2017 brings.
Submitted by Melanie Nind, NCRM, University of Southampton on Monday, 28th November 2016