Community engagement in international and development-led research

Partners on the project (PI, Co-Is, institutions, etc.):

  • Dr Mia Perry – University of Glasgow (Co-I)
  • Dr Alexandra Ross – University of Glasgow (Co-I)
  • Ms Viviana Checchia – Centre for Contemporary Arts (Co-I)
  • Prof Jo Sharp – University of St Andrews (Co-I)
  • Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil – Abundance (Co-I)
  • Dr Boyson H. Z. Moyo – LUANAR (Co-I)
  • Ms Helen Todd – ArtGlo (Co-I)

Dates: Aug 2019 to June 2020

Location: Scotland and Malawi

Funding: SFC-GCRF (University of Glasgow internal competition)

This ongoing project is funded by SFC-GCRF (University of Glasgow internal competition) and brings together partners from Scotland and Malawi.

Project description: Community engagement (CE) is a near-ubiquitous theme in international development assistance programmes. Yet, this modern grasp often implies ambiguity within research institutions about what exactly CE in international research means, what can be the impact, how and when in project cycles it can be achieved, etc. Despite good intentions, research teams can be seen by communities as knowledge extractors with tokenistic and perfunctory approaches because they either lack the time to engage properly with the communities involved in research projects or simply lack the skills and resources. Research paradigms also influence how CE is perceived and conducted by a research team. To add to the complex context, research teams are becoming more and more multi-disciplinary and diverse thus increasing communication challenges within the team, and with the communities.

Where some Higher Education Institutions have local public engagement support teams and resources, few tools and capacity building opportunities are available for researchers and research administration support staff directly related to CE in an international – development led research context.

This initiative is a bottom-up approach that seeks to challenge and response to the too-common top-down research agendas. To bridge the gap between research teams and communities, our main activity will be to build capacities through the development and distribution of a resource about community engagement in international – development led contexts for researchers and development workers in LMIC countries, as well as UK partners involved in the research teams. This will be achieved by co-designing and carrying out a workshop with the Malawian hub of the Sustainable Futures in Africa network and the local communities of Mzimba District – in Malawi.

The workshop will reflect the knowledge and experiences acquired across diverse contexts of community practice (including fishing, farming, education, healthcare, governance) from the perspectives of communities themselves, researchers, and development workers. The workshop will explore experiences in relation to methodological possibilities and result in a critical resource

Through this project, our objectives are to: a) offer a South-North and South-South capacity strengthening opportunity for multiple research, development, and community groups; ii) encourage South-South collaborations between institutions; iii) increase responsiveness to LMIC country needs and help research teams to manage community expectations; iv) increase engagement with non-academic partners and v) to initiate behavioural changes in research and development teams regarding CE in international research contexts.