Community Authority, Performance and Knowledge in Participatory Practice

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Sociology

Abstract

Participatory research methods, cultural community development, and dialogic processes can foster community empowerment, authority, and genuine investment of people in governance and political process. The promotion and improvement of such methods can help us to move beyond the problem of democratic deficit and engender a positive response to the feelings of 'loss of authority' that characterises much of contemporary Britain. Considerable progress has been made towards this end, but that progress stalls when it comes to developing a robust theoretical interrogation and account of these methods, and their relationship to community empowerment. Political theorists and philosophers have been too far removed from engagement in participatory practice, whilst empirical researchers and community practitioners have lacked the confidence, time and expertise to push forward the theory behind their work. The insights of arts and humanities perspectives on performance, experience and experimentation have been insufficiently incorporated into research on authority, power and participatory process. Academic researchers and thinktanks alike are calling for a more sophisticated theorisation of the processes by which participation generates the bottom-up authorisation of community voices. By developing an account of the value of participatory methods, developed by researchers at the cutting edge of both theory and practice, this project aims to enhance the impact of participatory research methods as a central driver behind effective forms of local democracy and community empowerment.

Our collaborative and capacity building activities bring together researchers and expertise from four existing Connected Communities projects, which addressed different aspects of understanding community authority, performance and knowledge in participatory practice, as well as additional performance studies scholars. Representatives of two mental health community development and empowerment through performance groups will be key consultants on the project, involved in setting the agenda and contributing experiential expertise from an early stage. The collaborators share in a commitment to enhancing the capacity of academic knowledge to understand and to promote community empowerment, participation and vitality. Working together will add considerable value to our existing projects, enabling strong and elaborated conclusions to be drawn about the ways in which participatory practices, and experimental stagings of knowledge production, can succeed in creating stronger, more dynamic and positively interconnected communities. Outputs will include a practical tool kit to assist participatory and performative researchers in fostering the authority and impact of their research; in addition to a special edition of the open access peer-reviewed journal, Participatory Learning and Action (distribution 20,000 in 121 countries), a research paper on participatory methodology for Qualitative Methods, and an AHRC Connected Communities discussion paper, which will make a major contribution to academic theories and methodologies of participatory research on (and working towards) community empowerment.

Planned Impact

Participatory research methods, cultural community development and dialogic processes can foster community empowerment, authority, and genuine investment of people in governance and political process. The promotion and improvement of such methods helps us to engender a positive response to the feelings of 'loss of authority' that pervade much of contemporary Britain. By developing an account of the value of participatory methods, drawing together the expertise of researchers at the cutting edge of both theory and practice, this project aims to enhance the impact of participatory research methods as a central driver behind effective forms of local democracy and community empowerment.The project will be of substantial benefit to academic researchers across disciplines by answering the call for a conceptual vocabulary capable of describing and differentiating between different participatory methodologies for researching communities and their varying effects and impacts. Additionally, by enabling participatory researchers to communicate more effectively with the wider academic community and thereby develop more powerful methodologies, it will enable researchers to have greater impact on the communities with whom they work. It will also have a direct impact upon the postdoctoral research assistants working on the project through developing their range of experience and skills.

Participatory researchers occupy a crucial 'hinge' position between academia and community development. However, they describe a lack of a theoretical vocabulary to articulate their complex understandings of the nature of meaningful participation to theoretical and scientific networks within academia. For the same reasons, those latter networks too often assume that participation processes automatically impact positively on community groups. They do not. In fact, as leading academics and thinktanks today suggest, the under-theorisation of participatory methods can lead to a significant waste of resources. It also inhibits the possibility of joined-up problem-solving between academics and community and researcher practitioners. This project will contribute to remedying this by working with participatory researchers and community groups to develop a conceptual vocabulary that grasps the complexities at stake in the attempts to use participatory methods to empower communities. This will improve the capacities of participatory researchers to communicate the implications, idiosyncracies and importance of their findings to wider academic networks. In doing so, it will improve their ability to make a positive impact upon the communities with whom they work.

The project will directly impact upon the two mental health community groups who are collaborating on the project, and who are looking to enhance their capacity to empower communities through creative performances of mental health issues. By sharing insights of performance researchers, community groups, participatory researchers, and theorists, the activities of the project will provide a space for sharing new ideas, tactics and methods for making performance-based community activities more powerful and effective.

The project will directly impact upon researchers and community development practitioners across the third and public sectors, through a special issue of open access Participatory Learning & Action (distribution 20,000 in 121 countries), which will extend the availability of the new vocabulary and conceptual apparatus developed during the project. In addition, the project website will share tactics on how community-based practitioners can most effectively communicate with both non-specialist and theoretical audiences.

Finally, the academic outputs of the project will benefit theory-based and scientific communities who have no first-hand experience of community development through participatory methods but seek to understand the relationship between knowledge and community empowerment.
 
Description Participatory practices - participatory budgeting, cultural community development, dialogic processes, action research and so on - can foster community empowerment, positive forms of authority, and genuine investment of people in governance and political process. This project draws upon the insight of theatrical grass roots participatory initiatives in the field of mental health, performance studies scholarship and post-structuralist political philosophy to articulate the value of, and interrogate the nature of, participatory practices; rethinking the relationship between such practices and
authority. The project began with a series of consultations and a literature survey, which fed into a weeklong residential workshop where an interdisciplinary group of academics
worked collaboratively towards developing robust theoretical articulations of the value and nature of participatory practice. They have now published an essay collection on this theme aimed at a wide general audience and freely available online - Problems of Participation: Reflections on Authority, Democracy and the Struggle for Common Life (Noorani, Blencowe & Brigstocke eds; 2013, ARN Press). Other outputs include online resources (especially a literature survey) and an academic article.
Exploitation Route Ideas and outputs from this and related projects (Immanent Authority and the Making of Community; Power in the Community) are currently being taken up within the scoping
work on 'co-production' for the major new Connected Communities project Productive Margins - Regulating for Engagement (PI, Morag McDermont - Tehseen Noorani is
currently employed on this project).
The authority research network will continue to pursue a broad research agenda that uses the emerging theoretical, arts and humanities informed, theoretical understanding
of the nature of authority to illuminate the nature of power relations in various sectors of social life, and to highlight the value of understanding and indeed fostering authority for
practices of empowerment, critique, community development, political participation and humanisation.
Areas of substantive new research that are currently being developed include: Christianity and the global/local architecture of political participation in Africa (Claire
Blencowe); authority and landrights activism in El Salvador (Naomi Millner); embodied experience, authority and the commons (Leila Dawney; Patrick Bresnihan); service user
recovery (Tehseen Noorani); and the history of urban reform movements (Julian Brigstocke).
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Environment,Healthcare,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.authorityresearch.net
 
Description In addition to academic publication we developed a collection of essays that have been published freely online in Open Democracy online magazine as well as in a free or cheaply available book Problems of Participation. This book is widely read and is currently being downloaded circa 450 times per week. The audience that we know about is diverse, including a lawyer in India, school teachers in the UK, activists in Ireland and the USA. The book is being used in various workshops, including applied theatre workshop in London, a community empowerment workshop in Bradford, and by the Public Science Project in New York, which involves community activists in the production of policy knowledge. The findings are also being taken up in environmental projects, including the Soil Seeds and Social Change network in Bristol, UK, and in El Salvador.
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Education,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description AHRC Connected Communities Development Grant
Amount £99,773 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2014 
End 04/2015
 
Description AHRC Connected Communities Summit Follow On Funding
Amount £46,000 (GBP)
Funding ID ah/L013282/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2014 
End 02/2015
 
Description AHRC Networking Award
Amount £40,000 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/K006045/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2014 
End 06/2016
 
Description Cabot Institute: University of Bristol
Amount £4,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Bristol 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2013 
End 09/2015
 
Description Charlemont Travel Award
Amount € 2,100 (EUR)
Organisation Royal Irish Academy (RIA) 
Sector Academic/University
Country Ireland
Start 06/2015 
End 08/2015
 
Description Connected Communities
Amount £55,000 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/L013282/1/2 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2014 
End 06/2015
 
Description IAS Warwick Networking Award
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Warwick 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2013 
End 07/2016
 
Description Social Change Through Creativity and Culture (Brazil) (JB)
Amount £280,000 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/N008855/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2015 
End 05/2016
 
Description Warwick Brazil Partnership
Amount £2,500 (GBP)
Organisation University of Warwick 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2016 
End 07/2016
 
Description Warwick University Research Development Fund Strategic Award
Amount £15,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Warwick 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2012 
End 09/2013
 
Description Authority Research Network Brazil Partnership 
Organisation Federal University of Bahia
Country Brazil 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have hosted a symposium and workshop in the UK and will travel to Brazil for the same in return. Through this we are writing a joint academic publication to be published in English and Portuguese, and we will also be collaborating to produce local specific pamphlets for use with school teachers, activists and wider publics.
Collaborator Contribution We have hosted a symposium and workshop in the UK and will travel to Brazil for the same in return. Through this we are writing a joint academic publication to be published in English and Portuguese, and we will also be collaborating to produce local specific pamphlets for use with school teachers, activists and wider publics. They will be hosting us for the duration of a month stay in Brazil.
Impact in process
Start Year 2014
 
Description Community-based water management in Cochabamba, Bolivia 
Organisation Democracy Center
Country Bolivia, Plurinational State of 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Through co-funding from Authority Research Network and the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin Ireland, I was able to meet with individuals working in the Democracy Centre and Red Vida in Cochabamba Bolivia, during a five week research trip. I was put in contact with the Democracy Centre through ARN. I carried out research on community-managed water systems in the city which involved interviewing and liasing with the Democrcy Centre and Red Vida.
Collaborator Contribution Both the Democracy Centre and Red Vida provided information, feedback on my ongoing research and important contacts.
Impact A forthcoming book chapter Bresnihan, P. (2015) Re-Staging the Water Wars: What does it mean to win? Split Waters: Examining Conflicts Related to Water and Their Narration. Cortesi, L. & Joy, K. J. (Eds.), Forum for Policy Dialogue, India (forthcoming).
Start Year 2015
 
Description Community-based water management in Cochabamba, Bolivia 
Organisation Inter-American Vigilance for the Defense and the Right to Water (Red Vida)
Country Bolivia, Plurinational State of 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Through co-funding from Authority Research Network and the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin Ireland, I was able to meet with individuals working in the Democracy Centre and Red Vida in Cochabamba Bolivia, during a five week research trip. I was put in contact with the Democracy Centre through ARN. I carried out research on community-managed water systems in the city which involved interviewing and liasing with the Democrcy Centre and Red Vida.
Collaborator Contribution Both the Democracy Centre and Red Vida provided information, feedback on my ongoing research and important contacts.
Impact A forthcoming book chapter Bresnihan, P. (2015) Re-Staging the Water Wars: What does it mean to win? Split Waters: Examining Conflicts Related to Water and Their Narration. Cortesi, L. & Joy, K. J. (Eds.), Forum for Policy Dialogue, India (forthcoming).
Start Year 2015
 
Description GETS, Universidade Federal de Paraiba 
Organisation Federal University of Bahia
Country Brazil 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution ARN organised and hosted a networking and collaboration workshop to share current research and develop new avenues for collaboration. GETS is now a formal partner of ARN.
Collaborator Contribution GETS organised a workshop, contributed towards accommodation for the collaborators, presented conference papers and hosted a dinner where collaborations were discussed.
Impact Conference papers as outlined in the project's outputs Other plans are in early stages.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Julian Brigstocke - partnership with Federal University of Rio de Janeiro 
Organisation Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
Country Brazil 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Research partnership on biosensors and mobility in Brazil
Collaborator Contribution Quantitative data analysis
Impact Research project, art installation and engagement activities planned for May 2016.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Julian Brigstocke - partnership with Redes da Mare, Rio de Janeiro 
Organisation Maré Networks
Country Brazil 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Julian Brigstocke has started a research and art project working with a social organisation developing social projects in the favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brigstocke offers research expertise and project design.
Collaborator Contribution Redes da Mare offers access to and support for vulnerable communities in Rio.
Impact Collaborative research project, art installation and social engagement activity planned for May 2016.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Naomi Millner: The Hospitality Project Network 
Organisation Barton Hill Walled Garden
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution This collaboration was created through the Hospitality Project, building on ideas developed with the Authority Research networks over years previous. The collaboration ran arts projects for members of refugee organisations in Bristol as a basis for research co-production.
Collaborator Contribution We ran ten workshops over 11 months, conducted one week away, ran a final event and an evaluation building toward future partnerships.
Impact Arts of Hospitality Open Event, Film, and Booklet.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Naomi Millner: The Hospitality Project Network 
Organisation Bristol Hospitality Network (BHN)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution This collaboration was created through the Hospitality Project, building on ideas developed with the Authority Research networks over years previous. The collaboration ran arts projects for members of refugee organisations in Bristol as a basis for research co-production.
Collaborator Contribution We ran ten workshops over 11 months, conducted one week away, ran a final event and an evaluation building toward future partnerships.
Impact Arts of Hospitality Open Event, Film, and Booklet.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Naomi Millner: The Hospitality Project Network 
Organisation Davis & Jones arts
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution This collaboration was created through the Hospitality Project, building on ideas developed with the Authority Research networks over years previous. The collaboration ran arts projects for members of refugee organisations in Bristol as a basis for research co-production.
Collaborator Contribution We ran ten workshops over 11 months, conducted one week away, ran a final event and an evaluation building toward future partnerships.
Impact Arts of Hospitality Open Event, Film, and Booklet.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Naomi Millner: The Hospitality Project Network 
Organisation Dignity for Asylum Seekers
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution This collaboration was created through the Hospitality Project, building on ideas developed with the Authority Research networks over years previous. The collaboration ran arts projects for members of refugee organisations in Bristol as a basis for research co-production.
Collaborator Contribution We ran ten workshops over 11 months, conducted one week away, ran a final event and an evaluation building toward future partnerships.
Impact Arts of Hospitality Open Event, Film, and Booklet.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Naomi Millner: The Hospitality Project Network 
Organisation Feed Bristol
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution This collaboration was created through the Hospitality Project, building on ideas developed with the Authority Research networks over years previous. The collaboration ran arts projects for members of refugee organisations in Bristol as a basis for research co-production.
Collaborator Contribution We ran ten workshops over 11 months, conducted one week away, ran a final event and an evaluation building toward future partnerships.
Impact Arts of Hospitality Open Event, Film, and Booklet.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Naomi Millner: The Mesoamerica Community Forestry Project 
Organisation Association of Forest Communities of Petén
Country Guatemala 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Secondment to this partnership has enabled the development of an interdisciplinary research programme and pathways for the impact of Naomi Millner's previous participative work.
Collaborator Contribution Bioversity International have supported Naomi Millner to integrate into the team and develop her participatory interventions.
Impact Ongoing partnership. Impact pathways are being shaped to produce meaningful changes in policy and in the quality of everyday lives. Funding applications are also being considered.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Naomi Millner: The Mesoamerica Community Forestry Project 
Organisation Bioversity International
Country Italy 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Secondment to this partnership has enabled the development of an interdisciplinary research programme and pathways for the impact of Naomi Millner's previous participative work.
Collaborator Contribution Bioversity International have supported Naomi Millner to integrate into the team and develop her participatory interventions.
Impact Ongoing partnership. Impact pathways are being shaped to produce meaningful changes in policy and in the quality of everyday lives. Funding applications are also being considered.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Naomi Millner: The Mesoamerica Community Forestry Project 
Organisation National Council of Protected Areas
Country Guatemala 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Secondment to this partnership has enabled the development of an interdisciplinary research programme and pathways for the impact of Naomi Millner's previous participative work.
Collaborator Contribution Bioversity International have supported Naomi Millner to integrate into the team and develop her participatory interventions.
Impact Ongoing partnership. Impact pathways are being shaped to produce meaningful changes in policy and in the quality of everyday lives. Funding applications are also being considered.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Naomi Millner: The Mesoamerica Community Forestry Project 
Organisation The Rainforest Alliance
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Secondment to this partnership has enabled the development of an interdisciplinary research programme and pathways for the impact of Naomi Millner's previous participative work.
Collaborator Contribution Bioversity International have supported Naomi Millner to integrate into the team and develop her participatory interventions.
Impact Ongoing partnership. Impact pathways are being shaped to produce meaningful changes in policy and in the quality of everyday lives. Funding applications are also being considered.
Start Year 2015
 
Description The OPEN Foundation Noorani 
Organisation OPEN Foundation
Country Netherlands 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Membership of the Foundation. Am an active project partner of the OPEN Foundation. Writing book reviews for their website.
Collaborator Contribution Inviting Tehseen Noorani to their biannual conferences. Inviting Tehseen Noorani to review books and interview authors for OPEN Foundation website Signposting and connecting me with new/interesting developments in the field, enabling pathways to greater impact of Tehseen Noorani's research outputs.
Impact Noorani, T. and Langlitz, N. (2016) 'An Anthropologist in Psychedelia: Interview with Nicolas Langlitz', available through http://www.stichtingopen.nl/en/
Start Year 2015
 
Description The Raza Youth Collective 
Organisation Raza Youth Collective
Country United States 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Tehseen Noorani used the Authority Research Network's collected edition, Problems of Participation (Noorani et al, 2013) to initiative a series of workshops and discussions with the RYC on their practices and frameworks for thinking through participation and power dynamics within their collective.
Collaborator Contribution Feedback on Problems of Participation in the form of a consultancy report, offering a critical review of the book to inform the ARN's future outputs.
Impact Raza Youth Collective (2015) 'Reflecting on participation and relationships in organizing' Consultancy report commissioned by the Authority Research Network
Start Year 2015
 
Description Doctoral Training Workshop on research collectives for the Anthropology department of the New School for Social Research, New York City, USA 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The workshop inspired doctoral students to start their own research collectives. It equipped them with skills to develop research collaborations.
It introduced them to the Authority Research Network's research methods, ethos and some of its findings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Open Democracy Editorial Partnership 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Articles widely read with comments received in online forum.

Stimulating debates on the nature of participatory democracy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Problems of Participation: Public Science Project New York 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk sparked discussion including planning towards future partnership between ARN and Public Science Project in New York.

Increase in uptake of book Problems of Participation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Soil Seeds and Social Change 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Workshops run in Bristol and in El Salvador exploring principles of Perma-Culture and their relationship to community empowerment, authority and aesthetics.

Participants discussed changing their own training practices to adopt insights from the research. Participants collaborated in production of a film which will be used to raise awareness and educate broader publics and other praticitioners of agriculture.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014