The Creative Communities Unit (CCU) at Staffordshire University have developed a new methodology originally based upon the Get Talking model of participatory action research. Get Talking is characterised by a set of principles, a clear process and the use of creative tools with which to engage research participants. Integral to the model is a team of community researchers, stakeholders who are involved in the production of the research.
In addition a team of volunteers, supported by the Creative Communities Unit, also train as Community Researchers for a programme. However, while this team of researchers has a vital role to play in collecting data for the evaluation of a programme, the size and scale of programmes and the demands of funders may result in this group of community researchers being unable to take a lead role in the direction of the research in in a meaningful way.
Therefore, the evaluation team developed a new model of action research, which better met the needs of the programme, Creative Approaches to Research for Learning and Action (CARLA).
Creative Approaches to Research for Learning and Action (CARLA)
Creative Approaches to Research for Learning and Action (CARLA) is based on the ethical principles underpinning the Get Talking methodology, namely participation, involvement, honesty, flexibility and taking action. It aims to encourage people to participate in the process of research, either in planning, the development of evaluation tools, and delivery of consultation sessions, analysis or contributing to the findings. It also recognises that some members of society are often excluded from the research process and therefore aims to include those groups by making the research accessible. The methodology also recognises the research process as a tool for learning, enabling and supporting the participants to reflect on their experience. The model ensures that the evaluation tools reflect a range of different learning styles, and recognise the importance of sharing findings with the wider team to enable that learning to apply to practice. The need for rigour in the research process also underpins this methodology.
The research is directed by a Lead Researcher, who works closely with local communities and the programme team to both inform the research process and share learning and is driven by the research principles. Creative evaluation tools are utilised to ensure the research process is engaging and suitable for a broad range of learning styles. The creative tools are designed to generate conversations, in the form of informal semi-structured interviews, to inform the research findings.
In addition to the creative tools, the research is supported by more traditional methods of research, such as surveys. These methods not only allow for participants to have an option of how to engage with the research, but also provides rigour to the research by generating a larger sample size and providing an opportunity to cross check the findings from the creative consultation sessions.