Research Method: Participatory Activist Research

2nd March 2021

Funded Project:
Methods for Change

This ‘how to’ guide outlines the Participatory Activist Research method used by Prof. Jenny Pickerill (The University of Sheffield). The comic was created in collaboration with Hugh Goldring and Nicole Burton from Petroglyph Comics.

Social scientists within 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.

Participatory Activist Research requires the researcher to participate in the thing that they are trying to understand. This approach can be useful for exploring the workings of communities, groups and organisations, and contributing to their goals in the process. It is premised on the researcher spending time in a place, observing and experiencing what happens in the daily lives of individuals involved in that setting.

The type, duration and level of participation may vary depending on the needs of the group and the wishes of participants. In some contexts, the approach may be based primarily around observing what is taking place in an organisation and reporting back. In others, the researcher may play a more active role in shaping what happens in the scene in which they are working. It builds upon Participatory Action Research and other ways to describe this more activist oriented participatory approach are ‘scholar activism’ or ‘doings in place’.

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

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