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  • 00:17

    My name is Emma Renold, and I'm a professorof childhood studies in Cardiff University in the SchoolOf Social Sciences.The case study I'm going to talk about todayis part of what has emerged from a much wider program.This is an ESRC/AHRC five-year research projectwith Cardiff and Bristol inside of what'scalled Productive Margins.

  • 00:39

    And this is all about rethinking and whatcommunity engagement is.So radical rethinking of community engagement.And the case today I'm going to talk about specificallyis looking at community engagement with young people,because they're often at the margins of decision makingand power.And so our focus has been specificallyon working with young people in North Merthyr.

  • 00:60

    And, again, even more focused, it'sactually looking at researching sensitive topics.So the area that I'm actually going to talk aboutis young women and gender based and sexual harassmentand violence.Don't judge me.Don't rule me.Don't read me.Don't beat me.We're using a range of creative methods, arts based methods,to really think about how to enable

  • 01:21

    young people to articulate things that are sometimesreally hard to speak about or talk about.And they're very dynamic and engaging, so we use sound.We use dance, bodies, movement.We use talk or text, of course, but a range of modalities.So these are multisensory methods,and we're very keen-- there's a range of theories around this,

  • 01:42

    but we're very keen on exploring effective methodologiesso that the power of affect, the vitality of the materialobject.What it means to put sound and materiality togetherand how does that work inside a research encounter.Over the last year, the team has beenworking with artists and young people living in North Merthyr.And we've been developing, as I said,

  • 02:02

    a range of multisensory methods which are allabout tapping into and connecting with young people'sown capabilities, their own resources, their own strengths.And so everyone will come at this differently.Some people love working with film.Other people absolutely love working with words and poems.Some people don't want to talk at all,and there are methods to kind of work with that.So it's really kind of creating these multisensory research

  • 02:25

    assemblages which are very specific to meand them and the room and the placeand the school and the area.That's how they come together, and that's the journeyI'm going to take you on.This isn't my mode of communication.I don't like talking.I don't like talking to cameras, so I'mgoing to walk now and show you exactlywhat the young people have been producing in the case studies.So here you can see that it's a picture of a map.

  • 02:47

    And the first thing, the first phase of the project weactually talked to lots and lots of young peoplein North Merthyr about where they felt safe and unsafein their place, and where they live in their communities.And some of the young women in that phase of the projectstarted to talk about feeling unsafe online,in their communities, and at school.

  • 03:07

    But specifically around unwanted comments,and they tended to be sexualized comments.So we started getting into the ideaof sexual violence, sexual harassment featuringin their everyday lives.As a project which has an extended period of time,we had the opportunity, because it was about engagement.It was about engaging people in decision making.And that we could work with some of those issueswith the young girls.

  • 03:28

    So I invited three of the young women whotalked about that from the first phase,and they included some of their wider friendshipgroup who they knew would somethingthat I was about to offer.And we became a core group of me and six young women.And we started a lunchtime group.It had to be lunch time because it'svery difficult for the girls to come out of lessons.

  • 03:49

    And so I'd trek up to North Merthyrweekly, sometimes fortnightly, and we'dmeet for around 45 minutes.And this was over a period of four to five months.This way of working was actually workingwith the regulations of the school,working with their time tables, and also chattingwith the safeguarding officer in the school, whowas really key for us to work further on some of these areas.

  • 04:11

    So all of these things featured and came to play a part.And the lunchtimes were a great time.It was a good space.It was a space outside of the timetable of the school.So again, all of that plays a part in our methodologies.It's all about these research assemblages.So this one here, Talk and Create.This is about working with some of the girls.And they started to talk again, in a more extended space,

  • 04:31

    in a group as well, about these sexualized comments,about every day sexual harassment,gender-based bullying, whether it's online,or whether it was in their school and communities.And what I did, what we would do, if you were doing research,you had the audio recorder on, and I'drecord the conversations.But it didn't stop there.What we did is we got those transcribed.So the following week I came back with their transcripts,

  • 04:53

    not in full, but they were there if they wanted to read them.But I cut up some of their sentences,and we put all of the words on to the table.And this is always done in an co-productive way.So participatory or such methods,means working with young people, askingwhat would they like to do next.I'm recording you.What do you think about maybe printing them off?Yeah, that's a good idea.Should we cut them up, and do things to the words?

  • 05:14

    Yeah, that sounds fun.So the next week I'd come back.The next week, and next week.And it would always be something different.So these are things that are evolving as we go along.There's one young woman who reallyliked working with words, so she produced this in them.I think it's about 15 minutes.And this is called Scream, Shout, Speak Out.

  • 05:35

    Sometimes words are comfortable, but sometimes peoplefind it difficult to articulate what's happening.And this session here, we've called The Tact Heart.As with all ways of working, sometimes things can extend.So a couple of the girls didn't needto go to their next lesson.I got permission, and we managed to work for an extra hour.And I started to talk about how they felt in their stomachs,

  • 05:55

    how they felt choked sometimes.It's just difficult to get it out,and how difficult it was to express what theywere feeling through words.I said to them, why don't you-- as I read the words--and I was reading again, some of these wordsthat they had talked about-- as I read them out, ratherthan communicating through words,I said why don't you use the paper we've gotand start scrunching it, or ripping up?Doing whatever you want with that paper as a way

  • 06:17

    of expressing how you feel.And that's what they started to do.They started to tear it, scrunch it, rip it.And they produced mountains of paperas I was speaking their words back to them.And at end of this session, one of the girlssaid, well, what do we do with all of this?And she didn't want to put the pieces of paper in the bin.She said, these are my feelings.

  • 06:38

    So again, thinking about the vitalityof matter, which Jane Bennett writes about,they don't like her feelings.They don't represent her feelings.She said to me directly, these are my feelings.And she couldn't put them in the bin.So we thought, what do we do with these?So the girls got them together, and they actuallydecided to create a little heart made of allthe little pieces of paper.And I still had taken my bag.

  • 06:59

    Again, these aren't art space methods and equipment,and I'm not an artist.Sometimes it's just very simple things.They facilitate this into the shape of a heart,and then they put all the tact wordson the outside of the heart.All the words they don't like.They wanted it on the outside, connected to,but not in the heart.And then they decided to draw clocks because they said,

  • 07:20

    time can heal.But then they put zigzags in the clock, to say well,time can't heal everything.So they wanted that broken element inside of it.So this became The Tact Heart.We also worked a lot with the ruler.The ruler has a lot of meaning.One of the things that the young women talked about

  • 07:41

    was how some boys were lifting up girls' skirts with rulers.So they decided to use this, the materiality of that ruler,and work with in a different way.To transform it.To make that ruler, which is an object of shame and hurt,actually have a transformative power.So I wrote some of the words that theydidn't like on rulers.They also wrote other words where they really

  • 08:02

    wanted change, like respect, and listen to me, and thingslike that.And then they decided to make a ruler skirt.And again, these things are always in co-productive ways.Working in co-productive ways.For the ruler skirt, I was the onethat would pin all the rulers together,because these things can take hours.And sometimes the girls work intensely on their own,but they always direct me, in terms

  • 08:22

    of what they wanted to do.What I've been talking about so faris a very contained research encounter, a safe space,in a room with me and them.They were very, very keen, all the wayfrom the start of making change and raising awareness.So the next step they said to me was actuallypresenting some of these things, these artifacts they've

  • 08:43

    created, their ideas and their thoughts to assemblyof children in their school.So this case study was really about thinkingabout ways of working with young people that can create change.And it can be really, really tiny changes,or they could be big changes.And for this one, there was a real opportunity, just verytimely, that I was connected to Welsh government,and it had a route in.Now that might not always happen,

  • 09:04

    but it was in this case.But we can also think about the very micro small potentialitiesof research.So it's always thinking about lookingat that threshold of research, and almost an activism,to some extent.And what does that mean when we doresearch on sensitive topics.So we became part of The Relationship Matters Campaign.We worked with Citizens Cymru rate.And what we did was we worked with a number of schools

  • 09:26

    in Citizens Cymru and we developeda piece of direct action.And this was having a Valentine's card.And what they did in their assemblies wasthey used-- we cut up hundreds and hundreds of piecesof little rulers, paper rulers, we put them on the seats.And so when the children came into the assembly,and they talked about all the things I shared

  • 09:48

    with you today-- this is their assemblies, what I'm sharingwith you-- they talked about all of this,but they wanted the kids to feel some of these things.So they passed The Tact Heart around,and they also asked them to put commentson the backs of the rulers.They collected all these comments, and what we did is weput the comments, the real comment insideof the Valentine's cards.And every assembly member received a Valentine's card

  • 10:08

    with a specific message inside about why educationwas important as part of the bill,as a preventive measure for addressing sexual harassmentand gender-based violence.So here you have a little extra here.It was also sealed with a red lipstick case.So there was 40 young people that took part.And now more young people are getting involved.They all with a little factory line, put

  • 10:30

    in the cards inside the envelopes.They sealed it with a kiss, which is linked to the Redto my Lips Campaign, which is a global campaign,again addressing sexual violence.And then we all went, took the train to the Senate.And we had a special card made for the late Andrewsthe assembly member who's in charge of the bill.And we posted the Valentine's card.And then as the bill was going through government,

  • 10:51

    I tweeted all the assembly members, and some of themtweeted back and were showing me the cards that they've got.And it had a real effect.So these things started very, very early on.We didn't quite know where they were going.We realized what was happening, and then wedecided we could use some of this.And again, it's about materiality.It's about affect, about feeling some of these.It's about having that Valentine's card in your hand.

  • 11:12

    And they talked about the buzz at the assembly hall,in the corridors.And politicians going, did you get a card?Did you get a card?So it started to have a buzz around it.And we got some really lovely messagesback for the young people about the direct actionthey took part in.And it did have an effect.And they did actually get many of their measuresback into the bill in relation to addressing education.

  • 11:33

    So you can see we've moved from researchall the way to the threshold of change, moving into activism.And from there, then it turning into something else.And they've created lots of different artifacts.Some finished, some unfinished.They had the opportunity-- because itwas an engagement project-- to and then work and connectwith the phase, which is producing a film.

  • 11:55

    And this is other young people as well,but the young girls have a sectionof that film in Graphic Moves.No one come here anymore.No one comes.It's empty.Because people don't relates us a child anymore.It's just a drunken hangout place for older people.So you can see some from some of the images here,the girls chose to produce some of their own footage.

  • 12:18

    So we're now moving into a different domain.They are their personal experiences,but they're thinking about something wider as well.Another way of communicating safe and unsafeplaces where they live.And also about generating change.So they went to the park, and theystarted to talk about the park as one of those placeswhere sometimes they felt unsafe.But they also talked about as a time

  • 12:39

    when they had a lot of fun, spinning around the roundabout, laughing.So they had some interesting conversations,which we then started to think about visually.So using visual methods now to communicatesome of those ideas.So one of the things we did, we started to hear the rulerskirts slapping in the wind.We started to not interviewing, but almostinterview it in the sense that you're creatingthe sound of the rule skirt.

  • 13:01

    So this ruler skirt has been in the assembly,it's been in the Senate, I've worn itin Welsh government, taken it back to the school,it's been at different conferences,the girls have worn it, and now it comes into its own.And now it actually becomes a piece of art in an art gallery.The final method, in terms of the film making,was using it a little pico projector,which projects footage.

  • 13:21

    And the girls were working with a filmmaker, Heloise Godfrey,of projecting some of the footageonto different parts of their bodies.And again, it was about relating back to those feelingsthat we couldn't talk about maybe.Sometimes they were difficult to express.Just using these different methods,you don't quite know where they're going to go.

  • 13:42

    Sometimes it will enabling young people to talk about or evenfeel some of the things that they're strugglingto express in other times.This final section here is working again,with the heart, and the rulers, and the comments.So again, those real comments from assemblies,the ones I'd cut up from their interviews, thisis all part of moving that into a different space now.

  • 14:05

    So they use the rulers to cut the clay.And they talked about the movement.They loved the movements.You had these sharp objects, phallic objects,used to cut the clay.And then finally, one of the last piecesthey were working on for the art display and galleryat the riverfront, was going back to those assembly comments

  • 14:27

    that the children had made.The way they express themselves.How they felt.What the young people were feeling.How some of the boys even wrote apologies.Some of the comments they had said in the past.How some said, yeah, we really do need help with this.They wanted to use all those comments and the heart idea.So we got little glass heart jarsand they put some of the assemblycomments they selected inside of those jars.

  • 14:49

    So the final display you'll see is of different layersof this ruler heart art work.And it kind of presents, in a way,the story of moving through these research encounters,trying to raise awareness, creating change, and thenopening up to a much wider space wherepeople can come in and look, and read, and touch, and feel.

  • 15:12

    And this is all about how data can change and transformhow it moves.And there are many more things to come hopefully,from this project.One of things that I hope that has come across as I'vebeen talking and walking and sharing the stories of the case

  • 15:32

    study, is the power of art space methodsto research sensitive topics like this.So we've been really thinking around creatingvery specific research assemblages with allof these different modalities inside of them,to really enable young people, and in this case, young women,to articulate what is sometimes really difficult to articulate.

  • 15:53

    And that might be all sorts of different formsof communication from poems to talking, to shredding paper,to thinking about paper as feelings, to not talkingat all, but having sensations.And all of these are really-- for me,they're very ethical ways of engagingwith the very sensitive topics.

  • 16:14

    So related to that point, is lookingat the power of art space methodsto transform researching encountersto really think again about what constitutes data.So we're not collecting data.We're generating data, we're creating data,we're thinking about data as creating change.So we're thinking about data that has movement.So it doesn't stop in thought inside of a research moment.

  • 16:34

    It might travel.In my travel through me into the Senate.It might travel through the ruler skirt.And it will connect in all sorts of ways.It's really thinking about the power of data,but data in all of these different modalities.So the other point I wanted to makeyou thinking about research of not just critique or justrepresentation.So a core part of this project is something

  • 16:57

    that feminist scholars for a long timehave been engaging with.But it's not just enough to talk about the state of things.But we have to think about change and transformationinside of that on sensitive topics like sexual harassment.And media and policy will always want a confession accountable.Often a person experience.And it was working with that very sensitively

  • 17:17

    in this project.And I hope that the case study-- as I've been walking around--has given you some ideas of working differentlywith how to communicate these experiences in ways thatand allow policymakers and media,but particularly policymakers to kind of touchand feel the data.So the ruler skirt, and looking at the powerand the vitality of matter had a way of connecting.

  • 17:38

    And one of the assembly members--while I gave lots of research evidence and findings, whichwe always do in research, what she was most interested inis touching the ruler skirt, and reading what was on it.Now that, in combination with the research findings,had some kind of impact.It touched her.And we talked about that.So again, thinking about how the different modes, particularlymateriality and affect is part of research impact.

  • 18:02

    So thinking more creatively about howwe can engage policymakers is another kindof finding, if you like, of this case study.And it's just given you a little glimpseat some of that process.And it hasn't explored all of the challengesand opportunities, but it's given you a flavor.


Professor Emma Renold presents the results of a participatory, arts-based research project she did with teen girls. The project focused on gender-based violence and bullying. The girls first created art to express how they felt about the topic, then transformed their art into a way to raise awareness among peers and lobby policymakers for change.

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Researching Sensitive Topics Using Creative Methods

Professor Emma Renold presents the results of a participatory, arts-based research project she did with teen girls. The project focused on gender-based violence and bullying. The girls first created art to express how they felt about the topic, then transformed their art into a way to raise awareness among peers and lobby policymakers for change.

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