In July, eight young volunteers engaged in participatory action research training de-livered via a collaboration between Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team Wales (EYST Wales) and WISERD.
EYST Wales, an award-winning charity, was set up in 2005 by a group of ethnic minority young people in Swansea, with the aim of providing a targeted, culturally sensitive and holistic support service for black and minority ethnic (BME) young people. Since then, EYST Wales has expanded its mission and vision to also meet the needs of BME families and individuals of all ages including refugees and asy-lum-seekers living in Wales.
The group of budding community researchers had previously participated in a WISERD and EYST Wales scoping project with Sioned Pearce and Esther Muddiman, exploring young women’s experiences and thoughts on the Brexit referendum, and life after Brexit. After taking part in this initial focus group, the young women voiced an interest in further developing links with WISERD, and learning research methods in order to explore issues important to them.
The training was commissioned by WISERD and the training was undertaken by Martin O’Neil (formerly of WISERD) and Alain Thomas a freelancer as expert practitioners in participatory methods. On day one Martin and Alain introduced the group to some classic participatory engagement methods. Collectively a research topic was agreed homelessness in Swansea, they then used mind mapping to explore the topic.
Day Two involved exploring potential research methods and devising a strategy for how to put them into practice, in order to better understand city centre homelessness in Swansea. This included deciding who to speak with, where to find them, and what problems or ethical questions may surface. The group decided to narrow the focus of this potential community research project to the experiences of people seeking asylum and those within the asylum process who have been made homeless in Swansea. They also practised participatory data analysis.
Training provider Alain, said: “The group were brilliant, keen to learn and to put the learning into practice, passionate about what they believed in, full of energy and fully engaged. I know Martin will agree it was an absolute pleasure to work with them – it energised me too!”
Evaluations of the experience were resoundingly positive. One participant, Rudina Koka, noted that people research every day, even if this is just using Google’s search engine, and appreciated the chance to learn how to investigate a question systematically and with rigour. Rudina said: “Thank you for helping us to research better and also to help us improve our ideas.” The only criticism from the group of young volunteers was that they felt there was a need for more than two days in order to fully explore the concepts introduced and design a viable research project to take forward.
Rocio Cifuentes, Director of EYST Wales, said: “We appreciate this opportunity for EYST volunteers to learn community research methods from two excellent trainers and would welcome further opportunities to collaborate with WISERD for volunteers to develop research skills and use them to work towards resilient communities.”