Putting energy, resource and time into understanding different power structures and decision contexts.
Djenontin and Meadow (2018) emphasise the importance of “possessing a working knowledge of the decision context of one’s partners in co-production”(p.890), as well as explaining that it is key to “learn each other’s language, disciplinary jargons, diversity, and differences” (p.896 see also Lach, 2014). Taking time to recognise the different pressures, boundaries and structures that influence other people’s decisions is really useful; if their decision processes are not explicit, it can be helpful to ask people to share the rationale and motivation that shapes each decision (if they feel comfortable to do so). Similarly, it is important to be careful to recognise where different understandings of words and phenomena may arise, and respecting the different ways that people use language, to facilitate finding productive communication strategies.
Employing inclusive mediation techniques
It is important to recognise, address and diffuse tensions as early as possible as described in the researcher insight below.
Researcher 3 worked with three distinct groups to facilitate inclusive group discussions and develop iterative processes of discussing, listening and learning:
‘It was perfectly possible to function across the different countries, with the three different types of people in each group: we worked in countries, then we worked in groups, then we brought everybody together. So there was a process of learning, of building up to the high pressure points’.
However, the researcher noted that there were, at times, areas of friction and disagreement:
‘That fell apart at some points: that fell apart across professional lines, and I think across North/South and exploitation lines as well...It happened in the end of one session, and we spent the evening working out how we would diffuse that. And so the protagonists [of the disagreement] met and we found the way’.(Researcher 3)
The steps and techniques used for facilitating inclusive mediation can be useful for resolving conflicts if they arise. Inclusive mediation is usually based on the following five phases:
“a statement about the core values of mediation, (nonjudgment, confidentiality, and voluntariness); a description of the five-step mediation process (Explaining Mediation, Listening, Listing Topics, Developing Solutions, and Agreement Writing); a review of housekeeping details; and giving consent by signing a detailed consent form outlining the above.”(Harmon‐Darrow et al., 2020, p.311)
A helpful list of the techniques and skills that can be useful in inclusive facilitation can be found on pp.312-313 in Harmon-Darrow and colleagues (2020).
Listening carefully across languages, domains and experiences
Respectful communication and active listening should underpin all interactions throughout the research process.
“Effective communication determines the quality of facilitation, mediation, and negotiation approaches. Effective communication includes addressing language gaps between and among the stakeholders and researchers, which required the use of interpreters, knowledge brokers, or boundary organizations” (Djenontin & Meadow, 2018, p.892)
Recommendations from the literature:
“One approach to recognizing other ways of knowing is by utilizing cultural insiders or cultural brokers to promote understanding of alternative perspectives…This does not infer that individuals with the same cultural background necessarily possess identical lived experiences or identical ways of knowing the world.” (Thambinathan & Kinsella, 2021)
‘The translators were professionals or advanced students, and it was fascinating to learn with them …. you realise that there is nothing like a word-to-word translation, that a translation is a creative act in itself. And what you're trying to do is to do justice to the spirit and the phraseology of what people are saying into this new language.... listening to people within their own peer groups where one feels that they'll have more confidence, and that confidence was supported in that process.’ (Researcher 3)
It is really valuable to put time into developing active listening skills for all participants, advisors and co-researcher engaged in research process. There are many quick introductions to active listening online and for a helpful reflection and practical advice on the process of learning and developing active listening alongside peer researchers see Eaton (2019).
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These links are by no means exhaustive but offer a few insights into previous international collaborations and information relating to understanding different decision contexts and details recent progress international Open Science collaborations
- Critical Approaches to Research: Refugee Hosts this offers reflections and insights into the methodological challenges and politics of working collaboratively and meaningfully on large interdisciplinary research projects.
- GlobalDev offers Development Research blogs reviewed by an expert editorial committee. All accepted content is translated into English, Spanish and French. They also have helpful insights into Evidence-Based Policy Making.
- (In)equitable knowledge systems: before, during and beyond a pandemic (INASP)
- Open Science Beyond Open Access: For and with communities (English Version), (French Version) (Arabic Version)
- Open Science and the Decolonization of Knowledge International Webinar Series and Indigenous Circle
- Participatory Action Research as a decolonial method
- UNESCO Knowledge for Change Consortium for Training in Community-Based Participatory Research
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Cite as: Scott-Barrett*, J., Marshall-Brown*, A., Livingstone-Banks, M., Chrisinger, B., Scher, B., Hickman, M. (2023) Participatory Research: Researcher Insights. University of Oxford *(joint first authorship)