Introducing the Pack
Since the end of 2017, Helen Johnson has been working with a small group of academics, artists and community partners to produce a free research methods resource pack. This work is funded by the Independent Social Research Foundation and supported by the University of Brighton. The resources that this group have created are designed for groups of people working together to creatively explore their thoughts and feelings on a topic without judgement, with a view to enhancing personal well-being, strengthening communities, and striving for social change/justice. The materials are intended to be accessible to people with limited experience of research methods and the arts, and are thus ideal for new researchers, students and community groups.
The resource pack is driven by and based around a new arts-based research method called ‘collaborative poetics.’ Arts-based research is an incredibly diverse and dynamic area. Broadly, however, it refers to studies where the arts are used as a tool for data collection, data analysis and/or data dissemination. Arts-based research is exciting and important, because it enables us to explore aspects of lived experience which are problematic for mainstream research methods, embracing ambiguity, fluidity, multiplicity, emotionality, and the unspoken. Working with the arts can also help us to attract new audiences (and participants) to research, engaging them with research findings on an emotive, visceral level. This can inspire action, strengthen communities and result in both individual and social transformations.
In arts-based research, the arts are conceived of broadly, and can include film, theatre, photography, poetry, collage and more. The resource pack reflects the roots of collaborative poetics by focusing predominantly on poetry and creative writing activities, but it also dabbles in visual art tools and techniques, with an eye on the future development/expansion of the method.
Collaborative poetics is a participatory research method. This means that practitioners seek to bring participants into a project as equal status co-researchers, rather than passive subjects to be studied. This reconceptualises research as a knowledge (and skill) sharing activity, which empowers, and works in service to, co-researchers. The pack includes guidance on core considerations in participatory research, such as how to set up and manage a participatory ‘research collective,’ how to instil your group’s ideology and aims in a manifesto and how to manage ethical issues in this kind of research.
Getting Hold of and Using the Pack
Guidance notes like these are brought together with teaching materials, lectures slides, creative writing activities, case studies and other resources in an accessible, engaging and substantial document. (The pack runs to almost 250 pages.) The pack has been designed to enable the user to dip into activities. It is flexible enough that it can be adapted to a wide variety of different contexts and time slots, with activities ranging from a single 5 minute exercise, to 15 hours of follow-on activities spread across multiple sessions. The pack is also supported by an ever-growing body of audio-visual resources which are available online.
The pack is currently in draft form, with the final version on track to be completed in March 2019. The network are keen for these draft resources to be used as widely as possible, so that feedback from this piloting can be used to develop a truly robust and useful final pack. Feedback can be sent either by direct email to Helen Johnson or by completing the feedback form on the collaborative poetics website.
To find out more about the collaborative poetics network and method, to download the collaborative poetics resources, or to leave feedback, please visit the network’s website: http://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/collaborativepoetics/
We’d love to hear more about your experiences of using, learning about and/or teaching arts-based and participatory research here too. What kinds of resources would have made it easier for you? What do you wish you’d known when you started out? How might you use a resource pack like this in your work?
- A short conference paper about the development of the resource packs is available here.
- Two journal articles about the pilot study which helped to found the collaborative poetics method can be read here and here.
Helen Johnson is the founder of the collaborative poetics method and network, and a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Brighton. She is both a social scientist and a spoken word poet, and has combined these interests in recent years under the auspices of arts-based research. www.hgregory.co.uk