Narrative participative action research to support social justice: methodological comparisons between Australia and the United Kingdom.

Year: 2016

Author: Stuart, Kaz, Shay, Marnee

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Researching the lived experiences of people in a way that honours who they are and that enables them to participate freely can be a challenge for researchers. Marnee and Kaz found similar solutions to this issue on different sides of the planet, supporting research processes that they believe to be socially just. We will share some of our personal narratives as researchers, with very different cultural standpoints and histories, about how we found commonalities that centres on relationality and our belief that relationships are central in effective participatory research. Relationships are of critical importance at a time when positivistic discourses of evidence-based service design dominate children, young people, and family services and enable organisations to ‘take’ data from participants for their own benefit. This paper proposes alternatives to this discourse that are equally valid and more socially just.The dominance of neoliberalism in Western countries such as Australia and the UK and its impact on the education and community sectors requires socially just researchers to persist in resisting dominant paradigms that contribute to reproducing social inequalities. Participants in this workshop will be invited to explore the key assumptions in research design and the problems and barriers that they can create in data collection. Alternatives will be actively mapped by the group linking creative and narrative research to both participative action research and social justice. Two methodological case studies are presented, one from Marnee’s work in Australia on exploring Indigenous educative roles in flexi schools and one from Kaz’s work in the UK with young people who were involved in inner city gangs and youth violence. Both research projects needed to demonstrate respect for the participants, develop trust, and enable critical discussion of the significant issues experienced by the participants. The creative and narrative approaches, or ‘yarning’ enabled this to happen.Discussion of what went well and what was problematic will illustrate similarities, differences and key learning for future research. We will invite you to yarn with us about factors that compel or constrain researchers and participants from engaging in these methods, co-creating knowledge for us all to take out into the field.