CALRG2020 talk: Taking participatory action research approaches in a time of pandemic

Mark Gaved

The covid-19 pandemic has impacted ARCLIGHT – researchers have not been able to work alongside communities in the final months of the project, and our workshop to gather stakeholder feedback, planned for Georgetown, has had to be moved online. We’ve moved rapidly to respond and have come up with a set of pragmatic responses, working online and via telephone.

Some research contexts enable substitution or support through alternative techniques that enable remote engagement, such as videoconferencing instead of face-to-face interviews. However taking a participatory action research approach implies building trust with participants and nurturing close collaborations and remote engagement can lead to a sense of emotional as well as physical distance, risking a failure of partnerships and less equitable processes and outcomes. Alternative methods must ensure that key methodological principles are upheld.  This is particularly problematic when engaging in low resource settings, where reliable or affordable access to network-based alternative techniques dependent on internet or mobile phone connectivity cannot be assured and where other environmental factors may come into play (e.g. political instability, movement restrictions).

As we’ve worked through a set of pragmatic responses, in ARCLIGHT we have also been mindful of seeking to keep to the spirit of a participatory research approach, ensuring all stakeholders’ voices are heard and ensuring equitable participation. Mark Gaved presented our approach at the recent Open University’s Computers and Learning Research Group annual conference (CALRG2020) – which itself was held online as a result of the pandemic.

You can view the slides online in Slideshare.


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