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Equal Access in Shaping Your Services - with a little help from some friends: reflecting on the evolution of participatory research

Dawn Benson, University Northumbria
Co-author(s): John Swain, Maureen Gillman, Alice Gallagher now Elliott


This paper is the product of a piece of qualitative research which worked towards participatory ideals. Long before the research team was commissioned was the idea of a group of people who were representative of an urban community. Vision impaired people from the local disability forum and voluntary and statutory sector organisations were already working together to improve the quality and take up of local services. They initially approached the research team at Northumbria University to carry out their research and the researchers soon identified qualitative methodologies, in particular a participatory approach to aid their work with the steering group/commissioners in developing the process of the research. As a consequence of the participatory approach the emerging data became grounded in the experiences of the participants which, because of their direct involvement in the project, fostered an ownership throughout the process and beyond the date when the research team left. Four years on and the project is still running although it runs independent of the research team. The group that has taken the research forward is now also represented by members of the commercial sector and disabled people who have joined since the original research. This paper will examine the process of the research and consider its current status. There are few examples of research projects that have not only been managed by participants but also taken over and extended by participants. Is this a participatory approach which can also be said to be emancipatory?

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