The Pathways through Participation team were out in force at this year’s Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) / NCVO research conference, held over two days earlier this week at Leeds University. Sarah Miller made the case for using life stories in volunteering research as part of an IVR-led panel on the impact of volunteering, and Eddie Cowling and I presented on the findings from community mapping workshops that we held earlier this year as part of the first phase of the fieldwork. Click on the links if you’d like to see our presentations and papers.
Posts Tagged ‘participatory mapping’
The project team’s latest report is now available for download. ‘Using participatory mapping to explore participation in three communities’ illustrates the history of participatory mapping as a versatile research tool, demonstrating its potential use in a variety of scenarios. The report then explains our approach to mapping within the Pathways through Participation project, and discusses the emergent findings and our reflections on the method.
Click here to download the report.
David March (DM) lives in the field work area of Enfield. He took part in one of the local mapping workshops and has joined the Enfield Local Stakeholder Group. Ellie Brodie (EB) caught up with him to find out how he’s finding being involved in the Pathways project so far. . .
EB: What made you interested in being involved in the project?
DM: When I heard about the project through the Fox Lane and District Residents’ Association, I’d been thinking about how to develop the Broomfield Community Orchard Project and I was interested to hear other people’s thoughts on how to do this.
I’m also involved in a group called ‘Improving our Place’ – a network of people who trying to improve the area. I thought that the research you are doing sounded interesting and I wanted to hear more about it; both locally and nationally. Having worked as a town planner in London and have some experience of supporting local groups, I am interested in hearing about the ways communities engage in participation and work together.
EB: You’ve taken part in a mapping workshop and been to your first quarterly local stakeholder group meeting – how are you finding being involved in the project so far?
DM: The mapping workshop was fascinating. Although the workshop group was small, I thought the outcome was very interesting: [the map] opened my eyes to my area and everyone seemed to enjoy it. What came across to me was that people have a lot of enthusiasm for sharing information about their local area, and that we all have a different perception about what our ‘local area’ is. Trying to map it as a diagram or as a literal map presented our group with an interesting challenge. Luckily it all came together quite well – or so we thought!
‘Mapping’ is a very useful exercise to go through; so often if you’re consulted on something and it’s usually some time before you any tangible results; but by creating a map and putting it up on the wall and talking about it gave us a strong sense of ownership. It also struck me that this approach that could also be useful for Local Authorities in planning their services as it provides a really good snapshot of an area. Although you can never expect to be fully comprehensive with the information, it could be an effective way of involving people in the community who don’t normally participate – such as school children and older people.
I was new to the LSG, and was struck how members were able to take a wide view of the services that their organisations provide together with the comprehensiveness of their knowledge of the area. It’s a very different starting point from that of a local resident. I was also struck by how open the discussion was and how useful it was in terms of feeding info through to you [EB]. I would like to see another resident on the LSG as I have a certain view (as a middle aged male) about things, whereas a woman with young children will see the area differently.
EB: What would you like to see coming out of the project?
DM: Idealistically, one would hope that information and thoughts about the nature of volunteering in the area, and how to encourage the participation of people who don’t get involved, will be fed through to local services and organisations and help open all our eyes about what makes it possible. I’d like to see local organisations being drawn into the research in such as way that they can then make use of the outcomes. I see as one of the opportunities of the project is to consider the connections between highly structured and informal participation.
I’d also like to see the recommendations being something that are both digestible and interesting enough to put in the local paper in the form of a leaflet; something that grabs people attention and shows that the project is not another academic piece of work. It needs to be something that connects with local communities.
EB: If you had to sum up the area of Enfield we’re looking at in 3 words, what would they be?
DM: Post-war suburbia.
Last month saw local mapping workshops being carried out in all three case-study areas. Two workshops took place in each case-study area, and you can find out more about the session in Suffolk here, and the Enfield workshop here. All the workshops intended to not only begin to explore local understandings and perspectives of participation, but also explore where participation happens in the local area and beyond; the sites, spaces, places and opportunities to participate.
The sessions held in inner-city Leeds were fascinating. We had some real stimulating discussions about what participation means to different people and why it is important. People’s perceptions were really varied, for example ‘having a voice’, ‘making a difference’, ‘inclusion’, ‘learning new skills’ and ‘companionship’. It all made for some very thought provoking conversations. The mapping element entailed groups working together to build a map of their local area, which they then populated with sites and opportunities for participation. Not only did this make for some very colourful depictions of the local area, but provided the project team with useful information about the areas people participate. The participants seemed to really enjoy discussing their local area and relished being asked about things that are important to them.
The workshops have helped us to prepare for the next stage of the research. In drawing on local knowledge and identifying the assorted sites of participation in the local area, we have a better idea of where we can find a diverse sample of people for the interviews that we will soon be carrying out. In the near future we will be writing a report of the mapping sessions and the use of community mapping as a research method, so watch this space!
I recently facilitated two participatory mapping workshops in Enfield in outer London, the ‘suburban’ fieldwork area. These workshops aimed to get a feel for the ‘where’ bit of the Pathways research: where do people go to take part? What are the main ‘sites’ of participation in the local area? What are the key places that residents identify as important? And, what happens in these places?
The richness and diversity of places and the different ways in which people get involved in the area was striking - from the very local (e.g. Friends of Parks groups) to the global (e.g. fundraising for international causes through local churches or the activist network of the local fair trade group).
Mapping was a really effective way of gathering local people’s knowledge: I learnt a lot about the area that I hadn’t from talking to individuals, walking around observing the area and reading newspapers and reports. Participants were also positive about the experience of taking part: some fed back that they had enjoyed creating the maps, and others commented that they were surprised (and pleased) that they lived in a place where so much is happening.
You can find out more about the Leeds workshops here, and the sessions in Suffolk here. And look out for our forthcoming report on all three mapping sessions, including our thoughts on the pros and cons of using this research method.
The project team has been busy in each of the case study areas, with the first meetings of the local stakeholder groups taking place in Enfield, Leeds and Suffolk in January 2009. Each local stakeholder group is made up of residents and practitioners/professionals from across the statutory and voluntary and community sectors who have an interest in – or responsibility for – participation in the area. The three local groups will help to guide and shape the research throughout the lifetime of the project and will meet every three months.
In each meeting, participants created visual maps of where participation happens in the case study area. These ‘activity maps’ identified both ‘sites’ of participation (e.g. Animal Rescue Centre) and different participatory activities or roles (e.g. Parent Governors). Apart from being a fun and engaging way for participants to get to know each other and the project better, the maps will provide invaluable data for the researchers – helping them to get to grips with the important ‘hot spots’ of local participation where they can carry out further research.
Here are a few photos to give you an idea of the mapping sessions….
“Maps are more than pieces of paper. They are stories, conversations, lives and songs lived out in a place and are inseparable from the political and cultural contexts in which they are used” (IFAD 2009: 4).
Participatory mapping as a research tool is growing in use. My presentation at the NCVO/VSSN research conference looked at how the project might use mapping to identify the range of opportunities and activities for engagement in the three case study areas of the study. I introduced the concept of community mapping in both developing nations and the developed world and gave the audience a flavour of how the Pathways project may use the approach. The session raised some thought provoking questions about the spaces and locations of the activity mapping sessions, how to engage ‘non-participants’, the formats of the maps and the labour and time intensity of conducting such a participatory approach.
Download the presentation here