Research Method: Engaged Capacity-building Workshops

30th March 2021

Funded Project:
Methods for Change

This ‘how to’ guide outlines the Engaged Capacity-building Workshops research method used by Megan Blake from the University of Sheffield. The image was created in collaboration with More than Minutes. Social scientists from the Methods for Change project came together to discuss the research methods they use and how methods create change in society. Drawing from the expertise in the Aspect network, they collaborated on a series of ‘how to’ guides which are step-by-step instructions and top-tips for adopting these methods in a range of sectors. Visual and multisensory pieces, including comics, illustrations, posters, booklets, short films and animations were then developed in collaboration with creatives to capture the key value of these research methods with a view to being able to convey them to a variety of audiences.

It is hoped that these resources will be useful for people in higher education, commercial, public sector, third sector and community organisations who are interested in experimenting with, and expanding professional skills in, the adoption of social science research methods.

Research Method: Engaged Capacity-building Workshops

This is a method that draws on repeated, interlinked workshop activities as a way to bring people together to work on shared issues. Workshops are not one-off events aimed at extracting data from participants, but rather are embedded in long-term engaged forms of knowledge exchange and research, which may draw on multiple methodological tools such as interviews and ethnography, with communities as project partners.

Using this approach can help to build networks of groups and individuals. This could include those who play different roles in relation to a particular service, resource, community or product, within food systems, social care, health or planning, for example.

Engaged Capacity-building Workshops can be applied to understand the materials, values, norms and relationships that shape the issue or system in question, and how power relationships and inequalities are reproduced, to establish avenues for changing and redesigning these relationships. Using this approach can help to build networks of groups and individuals, for example those who play different roles in relation to a particular service, resource, community or product, for example within the food system, social care and health or planning. It involves the researcher working closely with participants, often in experimental ways, to explore problems and questions and to identify solutions. By strengthening relationships between the different stakeholders, this approach can increase resilience and build the capacity of organisations and individuals, leading to improved practices, ways of working and outcomes for those involved

You can find all the research outputs from the Methods for Change series here

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This blog by the Methods for Change team, illustrated by Jack Brougham, asks if we should spend more time talking about the methods we use as researchers. Drawing on a recent paper, we suggest that researchers need to articulate why methods matter in creating change to global challenges. We share three creative techniques that we have experimented with across the Methods for Change project that can encourage playful, reflective conversation about methods and their role in galvanising change.

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