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  • 00:14

    Melanie Nind, thank you very much for talking to me today.What I wanted to ask you is, what is participatory research?Depends who you ask, of course, and it dependswho the research is with.But really, participatory researchis developed as a way of doing research largelyfor people who have been considered voiceless,or powerless, in research.

  • 00:42

    And it's about trying to enable peopleto participate more, and thereby havesome more power in the researcher-researchrelationship.So often it's regarded as blurringthe division between researcher and researched.And it's a field that isn't particularly mature.

  • 01:04

    So some of the new developments of the momentare around doing participatory research for children,because people are increasingly aware of childrenbeing powerless and having not had a voice.And increasingly now with conventionsfor rights of children and things, having a voice.But my own field is learning disabilities.

  • 01:25

    And because there has been disability studies,and disability activists coming togetherfor two or three decades now, the field'sa bit more mature there.And the drivers for participatory researchare very much around.There's a central mantra, nothing about us without us.

  • 01:46

    So it's this reaction to-- for years and years, peoplewith learning disabilities have been researched.People have done things to them, on them, prodded them,poked them, talked with professionals about them,talked with families about them.But very rarely have spoken directly to them,and not really regarded them as holders of valid knowledgein their own right.

  • 02:11

    So participatory research turns that on its head, really,and says, you are a valued social actor.And what we have to do in our researchingis enable you to be an active participant, for usto hear your voice, gain your perspectives,access your world view.

  • 02:32

    But more than that, to involve youin the various stages of the research process.So often participatory research isregarded as people being involvedin the decisions-- what's going to be researched,how, how we make sense of it, what we do with it at the end.There are overlaps.Overlaps with user-led research, overlapswith emancipatory research, and that's the concept, really.

  • 03:02

    That disabled people-- whoever itmight be, it could be anybody in the margins,but that they're actually in controlin the research process.Whereas participatory research is,you've got some decision making capacity in and all.And some people will argue that the two are separate,and a lot of people will just say that it'spart of the continuum.

  • 03:24

    OK, so what kinds of research, or research designs,ought I to be thinking of, using participatory methods?You can use participatory in any design, in a way.If you think of it as asking yourself the question,who is this research for?

  • 03:46

    Or, who is going to benefit from it?What right have I got to do this research?If I'm doing this research, I should be doing itwith you, rather than on you.That's the distinction-- with, rather than on.And if I'm doing this research with you, what kindof questions do you want asked?What kind of research is going to makea difference to your life, and make your life better?

  • 04:09

    And then, from that, the questionobviously leads to what kind of design you want.So you do get people doing participatory researchin any design whatsoever.Having said that, obviously it lendsitself to qualitative research.If you're already interested in gettingan in-depth understanding of the way somebodyviews the world, then actually, enabling themto be an active participant in the research aroundthat is a good way forward, you could argue.

  • 04:42

    The other main designs where you might want to use thisis if you're concerned for change.There's a strong link-up between participatory researchand actual research, or transformative research.So often we're not just trying to do research with peoplebecause that would be a nice thing to do,but actually because we consider that we've got some changeagendas in common.

  • 05:09

    For me, I consider myself an ally to peoplewith learning difficulties, learning disabilities.And therefore, I want to use the participatory research.Sometimes, not all of the time.But sometimes, to express that, being an ally.And to move forward something like access, or a key issue.

  • 05:31

    Are there subjects and designs thatperhaps would be inappropriate for a participative approach?I don't think so categorically.I think sometimes, practises are inappropriate.It's inappropriate to have a main study, whichis regarded as the real research, the real findings,and a bit of participatory research on the side.

  • 05:57

    Because that's totalistic, and this whole areais absolutely fraught with political sensitivities.That's a reason you might not want to go into it, if you'rethinking about it.If you haven't got ample time for handlingthose political sensitivities, thendon't touch it, because that's always the thing.If you're participatory to some extent,somebody else is going to say that's not enough.

  • 06:23

    Your participatory for one personis actually totalistic for somebody else,and you've really got to be able to feel comfortablewith the decisions you've made about how participatory youcan and want to be, and why.So, for me, this is totalistic on the sideof the main research.That's the inappropriate use of it.If we're going to be participatory,it should be because we regard the knowledge that we'regoing to co-construct and generate togetherto be valid knowledge.

  • 06:55

    Can I ask a little bit about methods?What range of methods would I useas a participatory researcher, or would my participantsbe using?Would they just be the same set of data gathering methodsthat other qualitative researchers would use?All of those methods are used, but there's alsoa sense in which participatory research makesus be a bit more creative, and just push things a little bitmore to get engagement.

  • 07:23

    So because we often do participatory researchfor people who haven't had a voice,sitting them down and doing an interview with them,they haven't go the experience, they haven't got the confidenceoften, or the skills to engage in that exchange.Whereas, actually, if we get a load of peopletogether over some tea and buns, and wehave some fun and activities, and there were some drawingmaterials and art stuff, and this open, much freer response,then sometimes that can be more participatory.

  • 07:57

    Sometimes methods, you've just gotto be able to be willing to hand over a bit more control.So if you're doing a traditional method,if it's going to be participatory,actually as a researcher, you've got to say,you have the camera.OK, more questions, what would you ask?If this was your project, what questions would you ask?

  • 08:19

    And sometimes there are nice, structured activitiesyou can do as well, to bring in engagement.We did them at the Research Methods Festival.Often game type activities can be used,but it does depend, too, who you are tryingto enable the participation of.In learning disabilities, one of the thingsthat some of the groups have been doing is around ethics.

  • 08:46

    Some people would say, people with learning disabilitiescan't be co-researchers, collaborativein research projects, because how can they possiblyget to grips with all of the nuancesand subtleties of ethics.But some of the groups have actuallysat down and looked at old researchprojects, and the ethical dilemmas in them.And through immersion in the researchand the ethical dilemmas, people became participators,formed their opinions, and gained knowledge and skills.

  • 09:19

    So what can we get from participative methodsthat we wouldn't get from other methods?I think we get different perspectives.That's often what I've been looking for.If I think of an example of my own research, my colleague JaneSeale and I did some work on, howcan we better understand the conceptof what access means for people with learning disabilities.

  • 09:46

    And we could have done that just as academic researchers,probing.But we did it in a very collaborative way.We had a seminar series, almost like a series of focus groupsthat involved researchers, practitioners, and peoplewith learning disabilities collaboratively pursuingthat agenda.

  • 10:08

    And together, going off down different tangentsand deciding what was important.And thinking about what topics would be good,like health or leisure, to pursue that topic.People suggested, people who might come in and stimulateour thinking.And because we did that in a participatory way,I think it was richer, certainly,than it would have been if it weredone in just academic researchers' perspectives.

  • 10:39

    I think also what we gained from doing itin a participatory way.And lots of participatory researcherssay this, that you actually learnto be a better listener, a more creative researcher.But I think often, usually, it's not what we gain,but what we give in participatory research,because it isn't about actually researchers.

  • 11:02

    Sucking these poor bodies dry of everything they can give us,and saying thank you very much, I'moff now to go and write my wondrous papers.It's actually through participatingin this-- participatory research onlyworks if everybody participates and isgoing to get something from it.It doesn't have to be the same thing.

  • 11:22

    The person with learning disabilities,what's the interest to them?Having a PhD thesis, or a journal article?But what they might want out of it is a better understandingof the world they live in.They might actually want to get something, change, or somethingelse, some great participatory project.So they'll know other things, like the groupwe're researching-- what people with learning disabilitiesdid in the second World War.

  • 11:50

    Well, I just think that's fascinating, because historianshaven't been asking that.And professionals working with peoplewith learning disabilities haven'tbeen asking that, they've been asking what peoples' needs are,future oriented.And yet, here's these people saying,we want to know about our history.And why were we so invisible?We don't want to be invisible.

  • 12:11

    So it's about what you can give as well as what you can gain.

Video Info

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Publication Year: 2011

Video Type:Interview

Methods: Participatory research, Participatory action research

Keywords: children's rights; collaboration; creativity and innovation; disability rights; listening; power and power relations; practices, strategies, and tools; tokenism; voice and visibility ... Show More

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Professor Melanie Nind explains participatory research as being designed and executed in collaboration with the target population--research with the population, not just on it. This includes engaging with the target population to choose research questions, design the study, and address ethical concerns.

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What is participatory research?

Professor Melanie Nind explains participatory research as being designed and executed in collaboration with the target population--research with the population, not just on it. This includes engaging with the target population to choose research questions, design the study, and address ethical concerns.

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