A Toolkit to Conducting Participatory Research

ATD Ireland has developed a new publication: “The Hidden Dimensions of
Poverty – International Participatory research: A toolkit to conducting participatory research”. 

This toolkit is aimed at people interested in carrying out participatory action research, especially on poverty and socioeconomic discrimination. Often researchers (including academic research and action research) try to capture the ‘lived experience’ to better their findings. However, this is often
done in a way in which knowledge from experience remains in the data collection phase and does not move to the analysis, discussion, interpretation and presentation of the data phase. This toolkit argues that those with lived experience should have greater ownership and control over research which is focused on their lives. This toolkit draws on the methodology used in the international Hidden Dimensions of Poverty Research carried out by ATD Fourth World (and partner organisation MATI in Bangladesh).

This document brings together the voices of co-researchers with lived experience of poverty, along with academics and practitioners demonstrating how each group brought a necessary and unique contribution
to the research.

However, it is also necessary to acknowledge that to properly carry out a piece of research in this way necessitates a particular set of requirements, strategies and often a change in mindset. This toolkit aims to fill in those gaps and serve as a useful guide.

“Being a co-researcher with ATD Fourth World helped me to further recognise that people with direct, lived experience of poverty are the experts. We understand the financial realities; the psychological impact; the navigation of the welfare system; the burden of stigma; the impact of negative discourse used by media, policymakers, politicians. We can recognise the threat of government talk of changing the welfare system and can interpret the disingenuous talk of welfare dependency. We see the individualising, sentimentalising, and masking of the broader experience and how this can, ultimately, tweak rather than work to eradicate poverty. If treated as equals, as legitimate contributors, people with direct, lived experience can contribute in a non-official authentic way to discussion. That contribution is not additional but essential. Any examination of poverty is weaker without that input”. – Rachel Broady

MoK relies on a revolutionary recognition of the value of the types of knowledge and the importance of the interaction between knowledge agents. The understanding that knowledge is the result of connection/engagement between people also includes the understanding that an emotional, unstable and surprising process is expected. Merging knowledge is not a linear process, and may even be frustrating and tiring, but as long as it is navigated with respect and curiosity towards the discovery of the new knowledge, it will bring significant innovative products to society and empower the different people who take part in each of the knowledge groups”. – Orna Shemer

“In this approach, instead of being objects for research and policies designed by others, people in poverty are co- researchers whose intelligence contribute to a common endeavour”- Xavier Godino