In light of the Coronavirus outbreak in early 2020 and the constraints imposed by social distancing, unique and complex challenges have emerged in participatory research and community engagement practices. In response to these restrictions, and the attendant health, socio-economic and cultural impacts of the pandemic there has been a rapid development of pioneering, hybrid approaches (both digital and analogue) to re-orientate methods and interventions that would have previously taken place in-person. These methodological imperatives have, however, brought into sharp focus the acute participation challenges surrounding inclusivity, accessibility and digital poverty.

Designing Distributed Community Participation (DDCP) is a five-month research project, launched early this month, that seeks to collaboratively create a digital repository to share best practice surrounding distributed and digital participation by capturing and evaluating examples of adapted and innovative methods, tools and techniques that have been developed both within GSA and externally by public and third sector organisations. These approaches will be drawn from blended research and pedagogical practices; reflecting how researchers, PGR students, and organisations have re-positioned participatory research methods in response to the uncertain circumstances the pandemic has presented. Practical examples will extend to prototyping virtual spaces for synchronous and asynchronous collaboration and hybrid uses of analogue and digital engagement tools, harnessing virtual platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WeTransfer, Miro and Mural. In doing so, we will address parallel complex ethical dimensions including approaches to informed consent and ways of documenting participation, and the recording, transcription and storage of (personal and research) data. This project will be framed around three Knowledge Exchange workshops, which will bring together a cross-section of experience and insights from design and public health researchers and community engagement professionals from the public and third sectors. These will explore distributed engagement through the following lenses:

Practice: reflecting on experiences of community engagement and ways of enabling participation and collaboration before and during the pandemic.

Process: sharing re-imagined tools, techniques and platforms that have supported synchronous and a-synchronous processes of distributed community participation.  

Partnerships: identifying future opportunities and partnerships, and ways of sustaining positive legacies as we look towards a transition back to in-person contexts.

To keep up to date with how the project develops, follow the project blog here:

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