Holding ourselves to account – a roadmap to inclusive practice in social research

10 November 2020

Holding ourselves to account – a roadmap to inclusive practice in social research

In October 2019 we convened an Inclusive Practice practice share session where a group of colleagues from other research organisations, local health and social care organisations, charities, trusts, regulators and membership organisations came together to jointly develop 10 recommendations for inclusive practice in social research. One year on, in 2020, we met again to reflect on progress, challenges and changing perceptions of inclusion over a tumultuous 12 months.

The session was both challenging and heartening. The work and change needed to achieve equity and justice sometimes feels immense, particularly the challenge of addressing who misses out, as well as gains, in the shift to digital working and remote research. We explored challenging the assumptions underpinning research practice, standards of evidence and the power relations inherent in commissioned research.

At the same time, it was great to hear about some of the positive action taken by organisations to start to make good. These included:

  • challenging who researches and represents whom by overhauling approaches to recruitment;
  • equality impact assessments for new projects and programmes;
  • lived-experience panels; and
  • inclusive practice focussed organisational KPIs

Many also shared tips on engaging remotely to gather proactive insights into people’s lived experiences during lockdown including traditional video chats, taking photographs, making videos and journals, WhatsApp diaries and provision of information in advance in different formats. It is really clear that different organisations and sectors are at varying stages in the journey of reassessing and rebalancing - but that there is energy now for making long-overdue changes.

One of the key ideas to come out of the discussion was the need to move beyond principles to specific, practical and measurable accountability and success measures for inclusive research practice that can help drive real change.

We share some collected ideas for a roadmap here. These are not set in stone, nor will they work for all organisations. They are a work in progress, and we want to use these measures as a basis for a live, ongoing conversation about accountable and successful inclusive practice.

How do these apply to the work you’re doing? What’s missing? Take a look and let us know.


Where to start

1.    Ask two key questions at the start of any research or engagement project:

“Who benefits from this research”?

“Who is missing?”

Use these two questions to help scope who needs to be engaged. While you may not be able to include everyone, being aware of whose voices are emphasised and whose may be missing challenges us to design research in more equitable ways.

2.    At the end of a research project ask everyone who was involved: “Thinking about the activity you took part in, was there anything that made you feel that you couldn't take part fully at the time? For example, were there spaces you couldn't access, or materials that weren't clear?” 

Include this question in all participant feedback forms, asking if anything about the activity people took part in limited their participation and how it could have been avoided. Follow up each instance of exclusion to ensure practice evolves.

3.    Actively challenge standalone tokenistic ‘single identities’, e.g. BAME, disabled as quotas in research and engagement and monitor and review when you do this and what the outcome is.

4.    Always produce outputs from research which can be shared with the people engaged through research themselves. Outputs should be freely available in a format that enables other to use them. For example, in Plain English at a minimum, Easy Read if possible, as well as non-written formats.

Next steps – medium term activities and outputs

  1. Trial light touch Equity and Justice ‘impact assessments’ in your next research project or programme / service design process. This will enable systematic monitoring and review of who is included and who isn’t, and ultimately challenge us to design research and engagement in more equitable ways.
  2. Increase the ways in which you involve the people who benefit from the research as early as possible in the research process. Build in mechanisms to involve people who benefit from the research in identifying outcomes and success measures for the work, for example, through lived experience advisory boards.
  3. Increase the number of research projects which your organisation commissions or provides which goes beyond tick box single identity sample quotas
  4. Start to challenge your organisation and research commissioners to think about what genuine co-production in research looks like. Work with peer researchers and community researchers, pay ‘lived experience’ researchers to lead on design and delivery of research.
  5. Gather stakeholder feedback on all of the above measures in order to hold ourselves to account, improve and make the ‘business case’ as well as the equity and justice case for inclusive practice

Aspirations – long term outcomes

  • People engaged through research, and the organisations which serve them, are using outputs to advocate/lobby/make case for change and make changes. People with lived experience are involved in designing, doing and communicating research
  • Evidence rooted in people’s lived experiences is being used to improve services. Policy, commissioning and service design processes use evidence from research focussed from the start on questions of equity and justice to inform decision making
  • Funders’ guidelines include provision of evidence of inclusive practice as standard.

What we’d like to do next

Whether you joined us for the #inclusivepracticeshare2020 or not, we want you to comment on and challenge these success and accountability measures. What successes have you had implementing inclusive practice? We want to hear from you on: What’s missing?

-       What successes are you having that you think others can learn from?

-       How do you think these measures can be implemented?

With your feedback and collaboration, we will develop and share this roadmap over the coming months.

If you are interested in trialling light touch Equity and Justice impact assessments, establishing lived experience panels or working groups to inform the evidence base for your work, or next strategy then please get in touch: zoe.khor@traverse.ltd

We will reconvene in a year’s time to share successes and challenges in relation to these measures and our experiences of what has changed.

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