The second day of the capacity building workshop at Pt. Ravi Shankar Shukla University,Raipur started with Dr Rajesh Tandon, sharing with the participants the agenda for the day, and details of the technical sessions. The first technical session of the day was dedicated to ‘Arts-based methods in research’, and the resource person for the session was Dr Darlene Clover, Professor, University of Victoria, Canada. In her session, Dr Clover very clearly articulated about the various forms of arts based research, its implications, and its usability in Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR).
Dr Clover shared that, ‘Art forms are very good at capturing dynamic living systems and the multidimensionality that we often encounter while doing CBPR ‘. She also shared that ‘Arts are very creative and imaginative means for knowledge making, and can explain aspects which are otherwise difficult to articulate, and that if we are not addressing critical issues or common assumption, we are not advancing social justice through our own research’’. She concluded her presentation by sharing some pictorial depictions of varying situations. She used this to make the students understand about the varied applicability and innovation involved in this form of research.
Pic 1: Dr Darlene Clover, sharing her reflections on ‘Arts-based Research Methods’
Further to the presentation, the floor was opened for group discussions among the students on issues like challenges in this kind of research, applicability in the research process, and the considerations that are important to look after, before using these methods. What followed was a good half hour of brainstorming among students in groups, who then came up with a range of issues that marked the use of arts based methods in research. Some of the issues that emerged are:
- There is a lot of sensitivity involved in this methodology. We need to be very careful of community’s values before we use such methods to solve their problems.
- Language barriers pose a huge challenge when attempting to use this methodology when working with the communities
- While arts based research is not very common, it can be used to good effect, for demonstrating the existential causes behind a particular problem.
- The researcher needs to develop appropriate and minimum levels of skills required for using this method meaningfully.
- Different arts based methods should be applied to different age groups. For example, while drawing/painting can be used to engage children; others involving more intellectual capacities like role plays can be used when working with adults.
- Certain arts based techniques like videography, photography calls for the required technical support.
To the above issues that were shared with the students, Dr Clover mentioned some crisp pointers about how to apply this method in the field. Some of her important comments were:
- There is a high degree of ethics involved in using this methodology to serve one’s research purpose.
- We have to chose the art form which is convenient for the community in question, and also in sync with their values and belief systems
- It is a great idea to approach the artists in the communities, and seek their support in fulfilling the research objective through this methodology.
Further, the second session of day 2, began with the release of the video documentary produced by the PRIA team, working on Swachh Bharat Mission (in association with WaterAid). The video was released by Dr Rajesh Tandon, Founder-President, PRIA & Dr Budd Hall, Professor, University of Victoria, Mansha, and Asha Srivastava, from PRIA, Chattissgarh team.
Pic 2: Video documentary prepared by PRIA, Chhattisgarh team (in association with WaterAid) being released by Dr Rajesh Tandon, Dr Budd Hall, Mansha & Asha Srivastava
The second technical session focused on building the students’ understanding on aspects like research topic, research question, and research design.The resource person for the session was Dr Sumona Dasgupts, Visiting fellow, PRIA. Dr Sumona began the session by underlining two key principles of Participatory Research, which were, firstly, that language is not the only source of communication with the communities; and secondly, it is essential that the researcher observes the power dynamics in the community with whom he is working. Theraeafter, Dr Sumona presented before the students the difference between a research topic and a research design, as the former gave a broader perspective on an issue, while the latter focused on a particular doable and feasible aspect under the broad umbrella of the former. She also shared that, ‘Social research needs a design/structure before the actual process of data collection and analysis can begin, and therefore a concrete research question needs to be framed before determing the research methods.’ Further to this, Dr Sumona also articulated the difference between a research design and a research method, as the’ first was a logical question, while the second was a logistical question’.
The students were then invited to form groups and do a small activity on what they learnt in the session. They were asked to think of any broad research topic, and generate two research questions from the same. After exhaustive deliberations and discussions, several groups came up with interesting and enticing research topic and questions, which were shared with rest of the participants. The facilitator for this part of the session was Dr Alok Pandey, who provided valuable feedback to the students on their ideas, which were complemented by very good suggestions which came from the rest of the audience, the professors in particular. He shared that, ‘It is important that we learn, and not worry about the right or wrong questions’. During this exercise, the students were made to reflect on their learning, and develop in them, the skills and the practical understanding that was required to frame research topics and questions. The day ended with another 5-minute group activity where the students were made to reflect on the challenges that emerged in their respective groups during the discussion process. Some of the points they came up with were, ‘the challenge of incorporating the interests of various disciplines, the journey from disagreement to agreement, entrenched biases, jumping to methods before deciding on the concrete research questions etc’.
Pic 3: Group discussions on ‘Difference between research topic & research question’