Ways of knowing: Exploring the different registers, values and subjectivities of collaborative research

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sch of Fine Art History of Art&Cult Stud


Since 2010 the AHRC Connected Communities programme has supported a range of co-designed, collaborative and participatory research projects involving academics working with community partners. Events convened through these projects, together with the Connected Communities Summits in 2011 and 2012, have made visible the crucial question of what kinds of knowledge or 'knowing' are generated through this kind of collaborative research. For the purposes of this project we conceptualize this in terms of the different registers of knowing which come from, and are useful in, different places (to certain academic disciplines, for specific organisations, for practice or 'know how'); the different value of the 'research' and the sometimes distinct ways in which worth or usefulness is assessed by different stakeholders; and the different modes of subjectivity which point to the way collaborative research demands a 'shuttling between', arguably a productive 'unknowing' (Vasudevan 2011) and a reconfiguring of cognitive, affective and embodied ways of understanding.

In this Follow-Up project, we will draw on the 14 Connected Communities funded projects which are represented by the project team's 11 core members. The 14 projects reflect the diversity and breadth of arts and humanities and social science disciplines funded through the programme (Community and Youth Work, Public Policy, Fine Art and Creative Arts, Design, Education Studies, Feminist Theory; Literary Theory; Museum and Heritage Studies; Philosophy). The 14 projects also represent different sites of collaborative knowledge production (youth work; museums and heritage sites; community/public health contexts; local government). More particularly, the projects represent distinct methods used for collaborative research and, therefore, distinct approaches to knowledge and knowing.

This Follow-Up project will offer an innovative methodology for addressing the epistemic questions raised by collaborative research, methods, outcomes and impacts precisely by self-consciously deploying the different methods we have ourselves deployed within our previous collaborative research practice. We will investigate the relationship between methods and the registers, values and subjectivities of 'knowing' generated through collaborative research through the reflexive deployment of polyvocal methods of storytelling, non-linguistic visualisation and the more cognitive, rational and consensus building approach of a Socratic Dialogue.

Our overall aims are to inform the Connected Communities programme through articulating the epistemic value of research designed and conducted with communities and to support the development of creative and reflexive practice in collaborative research.

We will achieve our aims and objectives through a range of outputs: a website representing and dramatizing the approaches of the project as it happens, an accessible PDF which will give an overview of the project, a website with focused pathways through the resources generated throughout the project, 1 peer-review journal article (likely venue Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship) and an international workshop which will generate a cross-disciplinary network of academic and non-academic practitioners in this area and stimulate future international Connected Communities projects.

Planned Impact

The project aims to delineate understandings of the different types of knowledges produced through collaborative research as a way on informing future research design and practice, both within the Connected Communities programme and beyond. We understand 'impact' as being generated through creating open lines of dialogue with potential users of the research from the beginning of the research process and the staged research design reflects our aim to strategically expand our circles of engagement. Step 1 and Step 2 begins with ourselves, Step 3 engages the emerging ideas of the project with academics and community partners we have worked with on previous projects, Step 4 draws these insights back into our second workshop and Step 5, 6 and 7 all actively create engagement with larger audiences for our research.

Our aim to inform future collaborative research practice gives us the key audience for our research. In the UK context, an immediately focus is researchers and community partners who have been, or are, engaged in AHRC Connected Communities funded research and we would especially welcome a connection with the concurrently running 'Community Co-creation and Co-design Research Development Projects'. We aim from the first to create a sense of a 'Connected Communities' community around our project through the use of the 'in process' blog and the use of social media. We aim to inform future collaborative research practice by creating a more confident and accessible articulation of the different types of knowing, their registers and their value. We aim, through this, to inform open discussion about research, research design and the different contributions of academics and community partners and to therefore support a solid basis for the formation of academic-community partner collaborative research teams in the future.

There are a number of sites of professional practice with which we are explicitly engaged. Represented in the Research Team are artists (Pool), youth workers (Hurcombe), member of public health organizations (McNulty) and those members of team will directly consider these audiences in framing their writing/visual contributions to the project website. In additionally the academic members of the team have other 'hats' and sites of practice they are actively engaged in community heritage and co-production in museums (Graham), environmental activism (Bastian), community engagement in public policy and local public services (Durose), participatory research with children and young people (Banks; Pahl and Pool) and design (Hill). We will actively seek specific audiences for our research through the practice sites our project represents. The focused and 'headline' aim here is to ensure community partners have the resources they need to articulate the value of research to them and the different types of knowledge which might prove useful.

We will do this through our final international workshop and by creating a short and free-to-download PDF which will accessibly give an overview of the epistemic debates, the range methods we experimented with (storytelling, diagramming, use of material culture, Socratic Dialogue, disciplinary interventions) and edited version of the reflective pieces generated during the project. We will advertise our blog, the final project PDF and the final workshop to our community collaborators, to those involved in AHRC Connected Communities projects via a range of relevant partner and professional networks and (e.g. Social History Curators Group; Transition Research Network, National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Community Development Exchange, Social Research Association). We will also actively engage with the AHRC to consider ways in the project might inform future collaborative research practice in Connected Communities funded projects.

We will also use the final workshop as a way of beginning to lay a pathway to future international research collaborations.


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Ways Of Knowing Research Team (2014) Ways of Knowing Zine 1

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Ways Of Knowing Research Team (2014) Ways of Knowing Zine 2

Description 'Ways of Knowing: Exploring the different registers, values and subjectivities of collaborative research' (2013-2014) used a range of experimental workshop methods to create a self-reflexive space for practitioners of collaborative research and to illuminate the relationship between felt and lived nature of working together and the forms of knowledge and learning that can be produced. Key findings have included:
1) Deeper understanding of different techniques and practices of workshop facilitation and has led to skills development for many members of the team.
2) A specific sense of the role of artists and designers in generating different kinds of spaces for collaborative research. This stand of thinking led to a collaboration between five of the Ways of Knowing team on the AHRC Connected Communities project 'Co-producing Legacy: Co-producing legacy: What is the role of artists within Connected Communities projects?'
3) The value of the different academic lenses of 'evidence-based approaches' and 'critical thinking approaches' in collaborative research spaces.
4) The need for different forms of writing and ways of writing collaboratively to respond to the different dimension of knowing - lived, felt, social and cognitive - in collaborative research. This led to the output of the two D-I-Y 'zines as means both of explore techniques for making, knowing and writing together.
Exploitation Route The Ways of Knowing project has directly relevance to current debates in museums, gallery and heritage contexts. This will happen through workshops, presentations and collaborative research with the sector. This is already in progress. Academically, the thinking has direct relevance for debates in participatory and collaborative research and forthcoming publications will intervene in current debates about co-produced research.
Sectors Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.pvac.leeds.ac.uk/waysofknowing/
Description A key contribution of Ways of Knowing was to delineate and test a variety of methods for participatory research. The PI has been able to take the learning from these experimental processes into ongoing work with museum practitioners who do community engagement and participatory work. For example, a number of case studies are in development based on the work of the Leeds Museum and Galleries Community Curators, which locates their work in longer genealogies of participatory practice. In 2017 the PI will be working with the British Museum through their Object Journeys project (lead Kayte McSweeney) to develop a series of events bringing participatory museum practice into dialogue with participatory research, this enabling the ideas developed in Ways of Knowing to develop further in collaboration with practitioners specifically in a museological context.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

Description Connected Communities Legacy Programme: Co-producing Legacy: The role of artists in Connected Communities
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/L013185/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2014 
End 07/2015