This was the third Knowledge Exchange Forum that we’ve hosted as part of the CommonHealth research programme. Instead of the old faithful academic communication method of PowerPoint and presentation we ran a series of workshops that aimed to give participants an insight into our very different research methods and draw them into our research process. We hoped that by revealing more about what we do and how we do it, we’d gain valuable feedback from our Forum members that come from the academic, social enterprise and health policy backgrounds.
The ‘history’ workshop: Déjà vu
For my workshop on historical approaches to researching the history of social enterprise as a public health initiative I tried as much as possible to immerse participants in the archive material that I work with on a daily basis. I enlisted the help of University archivist Carole McCallum, who did a great job of dispelling the myth that an archive was a dusty old place where men with white beards went to shelter from the rain. We set the participants the challenge of reading some handwritten documents and later we looked at a series of annual reports and social accounts produced by social enterprises between the 1980s and early 2000’s.
What was great to see was that the Forum members had similar reactions to the material that I have had over the last year. From the handwritten correspondence they too found a window on a way of communicating and negotiating with funding bodies that we seem to have lost in our present-day commitment to application forms. For others, currently working in the social enterprise sector, reading the reports from the 1990s provoked was an overwhelming sense of déjà vu, as many of the challenges that initiatives were facing then were the same as those being faced now. For me this was perhaps the most important lesson of the workshop, underlining why we want to engage members of the social enterprise sector in our research. If through our research we can help to overcome some of these challenges we’ll know that we’ve done our job properly.
I hope that in years to come people can look at the archive documents as ‘the way things were done back then’ rather than feel the haunting sense of déjà vu.
You can read more about ‘The History Project’ here
Dr Gill Murray
Passage From India workshop
I’ve just finished facilitating a session at our Knowledge Exchange Forum, I’m always so nervous before events like this but it could not have gone better. The aim of the session was to give people an insight into the research methods I’ve used in my PhD and for the CommonHealth programme. I showed two videos that gave a snapshot of the project I’ve been working on and asked the group to highlight what they thought were interesting issues to follow up in interviews and fieldwork (read a little more about my research here and here). The videos showed some of my research participants talking about their experiences in the groups I’ve been researching. We had some really great discussions about how to plan for interviews and periods of fieldwork. It was exciting to see that people were interested and intrigued by many of the same things that I had been when undertaking this research. We talked about the language that women used to describe themselves, ‘just a mum’ said one woman, and the way that work, jobs and employment feature in the value that women place on their involvement in groups. We discussed the nature of work, and the quality of jobs that people have available to them. These are issues that I’m seeking to explore in the analysis and write up of this research and it was comforting to know that not only do other people see these as important and interesting but that I hadn’t simply made up these issues, or misunderstood what I was seeing. It was helpful to have fresh eyes on the work I’ve been so close to for so long.
As I’m currently in the process of writing my PhD I often feel that any time spent away from this is a waste. In actual fact the Forum provided exactly what I needed- time away from writing and a renewed sense of purpose. Hearing the interest and seeing the enthusiasm for the research I had conducted reminded me that I do enjoy what I do and that there is a world out there (or at least the 15 people in the session!) who thinks that my research is interesting and important. Now, back to writing…
Clementine Hill O’Connor
Contemporary Analysis Workshop: Drawing on opinions, lines and lessons
One of the methods I have used in getting to the bottom of how social enterprises can impact upon health is to analyse evaluative reports (in the forms of Social Accounts and Social Return on Investment reports) of social enterprises in Scotland. These reports are written by the organisations themselves, before being externally ‘audited’ or ‘accredited’ to ensure accuracy. They represent a comprehensive record of the activities of a social enterprise, and what effects those activities have.
Yesterday’s workshop immersed the group in the same process, identifying the activities and outcomes of social enterprises and connecting the two through the claims of the organisations. Bringing these reports together allows an acknowledgement of the different ways in which an aim can be achieved, as well as generating a broad understanding of the potential outcomes of a specific activity. This initial findings provide a welcome reminder that for every problem sought to be addressed by social enterprises, there are tried and tested methods of overcoming them. This can appear daunting as it sometimes seems that every cause could result in every effect. But the knowing look of some of the social enterprise practitioners in the room has returned my optimism, both in the validity of my findings, and in the future use of social enterprises in achieving its goals.
There are more details about the project available here