Thur pm Debby et al

Report
Deborah Lynch, Catherine Forde & Mary Hurley
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Methodologies for a new era?
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Potential of research to be ‘transformative’ and
linked to ‘shared goal’ of social change
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Mutual interest in exploring the work of Donna
Mertens – her ‘transformative paradigm’ (2009)
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Links to our research
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The contribution that social workers make to
communities is integral to the principles and values of
the profession but is often ‘hidden’ and
unacknowledged
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An exploration of social workers’ engagement with
collective approaches to practice
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Qualitative interviews with practitioners in statutory,
voluntary and community contexts
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Broad range of community-based collective activities
in diverse practice contexts
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Access to communities that ‘are pushed to societies
margins’ (Mertens, 2009, p. 48)
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Specialist practice knowledge to inform research
responses
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Critical practice (Ife, 1998) – social workers as ‘change
agents’
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Partnerships, alliances, practice networks, affiliations
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Practice skills such as: assessing needs and resources; analysing
problems and goals; participation and membership, developing a
framework or model for change; writing grant applications;
cultural competence… ‘toolkit’ (Mertens, 2009)
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Building a research culture within the social work profession
through linking social inquiry to social action
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Research and evaluation research to critique and refine policy to
advocate actions that support changes in policy
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Overview
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Participation and action
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Critical reflection – ‘insider’
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Researcher/Activist
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Donna Mertens – focus of work ‘transformative mixed
method inquiry in diverse communities that prioritises
ethical implications of research in pursuit of social
justice’ (p.401)
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Researchers with the goal of social change – ‘what
kind of power does participation in my study give and
to whom?’ Examples of where participation does not
imbue political power – shifting responsibility for
change on those who have little political power.
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‘If we ground research and evaluation in
assumptions (see later slide) that prioritise the
furtherance of social justice and human rights,
then we will utilise community involvement and
research methodologies that will lead to a greater
realisation of social change’ (Mertens, 2009, p.3)
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Underlying assumptions that rely on ethical
stances of inclusion and challenging oppressive
social structures
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An entry process into the community that is
designed to build trust and make goals and
strategies transparent

Dissemination of findings in ways that encourage
use of the results to enhance social justice and
human rights
(Mertens, 2009, p. 5)

Transformational action research ‘generates knowledge
claims for the expressed purpose of taking action to
promote social analysis and democratic social change’
(Greenwood & Levine, 2007, p.5 cited in Mertens, 2009)

Emancipatory action research focuses on institutional
factors that impede change in a practice context
(Humphries, 2008)

Donna Mertens moved from the emancipatory paradigm
to transformative to emphasise ‘agency’ (2009, p.2).

Authenticity
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Positionality
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Community
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Attention to voice
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Critical Reflexivity
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Reciprocity
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Sharing the benefits of privilege
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Places central importance on the lives and
experiences of communities that are pushed to
society’s margins
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Analyses power relationships
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Links results of social inquiry to action

Uses transformative theory to develop inquiry
approach (Mertens, 2009, p. 48)
Axiology
Respect, beneficence, justice
Ontology
Unequal distribution of power;
accounts of the powerful most likely to
be accepted
Epistemology
‘Interactive and empowering’ research
relationship; collaboration,
understanding and building of trust
important
Methodology
Qualitative dimension; partnership
between researchers and community;
Participants’ voice valued.

Qualitative methods (dialogical) critical
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Quantitative and mixed methods
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Interactive link between researcher and participants in
defining focus and questions
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Methods to accommodate cultural complexity
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Contextual and historic factors – as related to
discrimination and oppression

Observation
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Document and Artifact Review
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Personal Reflections
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Interviews
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Focus groups
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Gender Analysis
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Community-based data collection
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Visual Data – photographs, video, web
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Ranking/Trend Analysis/Forms of Mapping
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Social Network Analysis
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Surveys – including computer- based surveying
(double-edged sword?)
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What could be some of the challenges using the
transformative paradigm as a researcher in your
work context?

Choose a data collection method that interests the
group and discuss its potential for use in your
work setting.
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Bradbury, H. and Reason, P. (2003) ‘Action Research: An
Opportunity for Revitalizing Research Purpose and Practices’,
Qualitative Social Work, 46(1): 144-146.
Holmquist, C. and Sundin, E. (2010) ‘The Suicide of the Social
Sciences: Causes and Effects’, The European Journal of Social
Science Research, 23 (1): 13-23.
Humphries, B. (2008) Social Work Research for Social Justice,
Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Ife, J. (1997) Rethinking Social Work: Towards Critical Practice,
Melbourne: Longman.
Lincoln, Y.S (1995) Standards for Qualitatitive Research, Paper
presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational
Research Association, San Francisco.

Mertens, D. (2007) ‘Transformative Paradigm:
Mixed Methods and Social Justice’, Journal of
Mixed Methods Research, 1 (3): 212-225.
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Mertens, D. M. (2009) Transformative
Research and Evaluation, New York: The
Guilford Press.

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