Social research and evaluation methods are evolving to empower and enhance communities through the research process. Peer research and co-production have become ideal ways to share skills and knowledge and to build community resilience.
When appropriate, Get the Data utilizes peer research and co-production to enhance our evaluations of offender management initiatives. However, we know the potential challenges of these approaches and the need to partner with experienced peer researcher organizations to supplement our expert social impact analytics.
In his latest blog, our US-based director, Alan Mackie, discusses the power and value of our peer research partners.
The Benefits of Using Peer Research
Knowledge of lived experience has the great potential to enhance research findings, but it takes skill to elicit that knowledge from hard-to-reach communities. Researchers, such as myself, who don’t have that lived experience, should concede that they are ill-placed to get alongside people who have experienced custodial sentences, foster care, homelessness, or inter-generational experiences of poverty, injustice, and lack of economic opportunity.
Evaluation professionals do, however, have a duty to overcome the barriers to obtaining genuine lived experience, and that’s where peer researchers should be considered. With shared lived experiences, peer researchers are usually able to elicit a more authentic and realistic response from interviewees. Through appropriate training and support, they can create an environment where trust and empathy with a hard-to-reach group are strengthened. Instead of the research being done to others, the research is conducted between those whose shared experiences form the basis of a collaborative and equitable enquiry.
Peer research also facilitates the co-production of research tools, analysis, and well-informed recommendations. Diversity and authenticity are therefore maintained and woven into the research project. Ownership of the research findings and recommendations can also be shared more easily with the community and the subjects of the research. For the peer researchers themselves, the experience can build up confidence, key skills and increase social capital within a community.
It is important to note that successful peer research and co-production require specific skills and knowledge. All this requires time and resources to train peer researchers and work collaboratively with them. Shared experiences can also result in emotions being brought to the surface, so protecting the well-being of the peer interviewers and their interviewees will always need to take priority, and appropriate support needs to be provided.
Researchers, commissioners, and funders should see peer research and co-production as opportunities to invest in the quality of research rather than as obstacles to the economical and efficient completion of an evaluation. Adequate funding for these approaches will ensure authentic and inclusive research findings.
Taking the next steps
If using peer researchers is appropriate to the aims of the research or evaluation, it is important to ensure there is a detailed plan for how they will be used and what extra time and resources will be required. The added value that the co-production will give is invaluable and potentially transformative.
GtD can help you assess your research and evaluation requirements in order to Measure, Learn, and Prove your service. Where peer research and co-production can enhance the core research outputs, GtD will supplement our expertise by engaging our trusted peer research partners.
Please get in contact for further information about how we can incorporate peer research and production into our social impact analytics to meet your evaluation needs.