Since the COVID-19 lockdown and physical distancing began many of us have been grappling with the challenges and potentials of rethinking co-produced or collaborative ways of working. Physical distancing measures make it harder to develop the trust and quality of relationship needed to work together. At the same time, the pandemic, by challenging traditional ways of doing research, might create new space to question established orders of power, such as academic knowledge (Roy, 2020, Skeggs, 2020). Could this challenge to settled ways of doing co-production might also provoke us to imagine new ways of researching together?
This ESRC Festival of Social Science online event brought together on-going dialogues between academics, community organisations and the people and publics they work with to re-imagine what co-production is and it might become. The event featured short presentations on different coproduction projects, with time for group discussion on challenges and opportunities ahead for coproduced research.
We focused on cases each illuminating a new theme for co-production:
Imagination: Co-production is often described using words such as empower, social justice, democracy and equality but these have all been stretched and misappropriated to mean just about anything. James Duggan and Elmi Ali from community theatre space Niamos are working to re-think co-production through the lenses and practices of Afrofuturism which offers a new imagination, where we might, for example, hold onto ideas of being alien and alienation rather than claiming we are equals in co-production. (You can read a blog about this session here.)
Margins: At a time when our welfare system is under unprecedented pressure and needs rethinking, it’s fundamental to include in this discussion voices too often left unheard. Sonia Bussu and Nigel Allmark talked with Suzy Solley and Mat Amp from Groundswell, a London-based charity doing research with people with lived experience of homelessness, some of their recent projects during the pandemic, and how they are helping to create ethical spaces for homeless voices to be heard and contribute to societal change.
Tacit knowledge: Working with families often involves engaging with sensitive and complex family relationships and it is important to be able to account for things that go unsaid or are not fully explicated in words. Abi Hackett joined with Ruthie Boycott-Garner (MMU), Katy McCall (Manchester Art Gallery) and Naomi Kendrick (Manchester Art Gallery) to discuss the potential of visual and material methods to access ways of knowing that extend beyond words, during times of physical distancing.
This blog is the first in the series presenting these three dialogues. In the meantime please check out the event video and Wakelet:
Nigel Allmark, Sonia Bussu, James Duggan and Abi Hackett