• Who calls the tune? Participation and partnership in research

      Karban, Kate; Paley, C.; Willcock, K. (2011)
      This paper explores issues of partnership and participation in research and evaluation, drawing on the experiences of evaluating a move from hostel accommodation to independent supported living for people with mental health difficulties or learning disabilities. The service change project involved a partnership between a local authority and a housing association with over 300 people moving into their own tenancies in newly-built flats and bungalows. The accompanying evaluation was designed on a model of service user participation and action research and was specifically concerned to explore the impact of the changes on people’s actual or perceived social inclusion into local communities. Ten service user and carer researchers, some of whom were directly involved in the move from hostel to independent living, were recruited and worked with ‘professional’ researchers to examine both the process and the outcomes of the move. The work will be viewed through the insights offered by feminist, transformative and participatory approaches to research. The ‘positioning’ of the researcher in relation to boundaries and the construction of the ‘other’ will be considered, emphasising an approach grounded in reflexivity and an acknowledgement of the complex ethical issues involved. A key feature of this study has been the negotiation involved between a complex change project and a participatory evaluation design. Learning points from the work so far will also be considered in terms of their wider application in future evaluations of complex change projects that involve multiple stakeholders.