Participatory feedback and dissemination with and for children: reflections from research with young migrants in southern Africa

Lorraine van Blerk, Nicola Ansell

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


    The call for geographical research to be more ethically and morally responsible has witnessed an increase in thought and writing on the ethics of research (Smith, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001; Hay, 1998; Cloke, 2002; Cutchin, 2002; Valentine, 2003). This has led Pain (2003, p. 655) to be optimistic that truly social geographies (those that seek solutions to social problems) are remobilizing. At the same time there is increasing awareness among funding bodies of the need to consider research ethics and several now require investigators to reflect on relevant ethical issues, if not to undergo an independent ethical review of their project as a condition for releasing funds (see for example, Nuffield Foundation, 2004). As part of this move for more morally responsible research (Cloke, 2002), the inclusion of appropriate dissemination strategies is now an integral part of research proposals with an expectation that research will be returned to participants and that dissemination will extend beyond academic outputs (see for example, ESRC.) Despite this, less than five years ago Kitchin and Hubbard (1999, p. 195) recognised that although social geographers are ‘happy to survey (and “map”) the exclusionary landscape, [they] rarely do much to change that landscape apart from the occasional token nod to “planning and policy recommendations”’. In addition, most ethical guidelines and funding agencies adhere to the idea that dissemination is both necessary and important. However, guidelines are often unclear, with for example the British Sociological Association (2004) merely mentioning that researchers should ‘spread their findings’ and be cautious of funding agencies that restrict this process. Although there is a great deal of research which demonstrates participatory approaches and seeks to empower marginalised groups through the research process (Kesby, 2000), rarely has the ethical practice of how we disseminate our findings been discussed in detail. This appears to be crucial should we require our research to effect change by promoting the voices of participants among their communities/societies. This piece considers the process of disseminating our recent research project that looked at young people’s migration as a response to AIDS and explores how employing a diversity of feedback and dissemination strategies can counteract the problems associated with engaging both participants and user groups. Here we make two distinctions that we feel are helpful for researchers wishing to develop effective dissemination strategies that seek to be participatory in nature and action-oriented, handing over the research findings to communities and policy-makers. The first distinction that we make in the piece is between feedback, where we return the research findings to the original participants after comprehensive analysis, and dissemination, where we seek to have wider influence on policy and practice. In addition, we explore how these processes can be either passive, where the researchers take the lead, or active and participatory, where researchers engage with participants and practitioners. Through drawing on examples from our research with young people and their communities, we argue that this latter ‘active’ approach is necessary in both feedback and dissemination for research findings to be effectively translated into meaningful solutions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationDoing Children’s Geographies
    Subtitle of host publicationMethodological Issues in Research with Young People
    EditorsLorraine van Blerk, Mike Kesby
    Place of PublicationLondon
    Number of pages12
    ISBN (Electronic)9781315869216
    ISBN (Print)9780415448208 (hbk), 9780415761970 (pbk)
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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