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Corra and the Storyteller’s Quest

This blog gives an overview of the workshop that Rowan Anderson (Corra Foundation) and Ffyona Taylor, Partnership Drugs Initiative (PDI) will present in the Third Sector Research Forum Conference on 17 February 2021.

Are you sitting comfortably?  Then I’ll begin…

Corra Foundation has always been interested in stories. They reflect the things that shape our every experience, and ultimately human experiences are what make our society.  It seems obvious then, that stories should have power to shape the policy and practice that influence our lives as citizens. 

The recent moves to include stories (or, lived experience, as stories are now sometimes more formally known) in the work that funders, services and governments do reflects a welcome aspiration to be more inclusive in our approach to policy and grant-making – a recognition that people’s personal experiences make them experts with important wisdom to share.  But like in all good stories, including these intimate life experiences meaningfully, purposefully, and ethically – is a journey… a quest full of twists and turns.  

At the outset of our recent research projects, laying a solid ethical foundation for what we wanted to do and how we would do it was our first step.  Taking guidance from our advisory panels of experts and critical feedback from trusted colleagues, we laboured over the ethics of talking about all the “difficult things” that surround drugs and alcohol.  How do we listen to children and young people who had experienced rough starts to their lives? How can we sit with parents navigating a new and tenuous recovery as they relive past traumas?  Can a funder truly expect brutal honesty from front-line workers clinging on through burn-out and bureaucracy when the funder holds their grant?  What if we heard something… scary?

Big questions like this can seem daunting when setting out on research projects and, in some instances, the ethical concerns can seem so insurmountable that plans to listen to seldom heard voices in research are quietly shelved, or diluted down to the point that they become, well frankly – weak. 

During our research planning stage, we faced these fears and agreed that whether or not we started this research, children and families still experiencing these “difficult things”.  For us to shy away and continue to ignore the things which make us uncomfortable about truly listening to people would only perpetuate the gulf between those seldom-heard stories and policy, practice, and research.  And that is what would be unethical.

For now, this short story on research ethics must end, but I’m looking forward to sharing more tall tales from Corra’s research at TSRF ‘Researching Well’ Conference next month.

Find out more about the conference:

Researching well – Good practice and ethics in third sector research 2021 online conference

The 6th TSRF conference took place on Wednesday 17th February 2021, 9.30am – 2.30pm via Zoom. The conference was all about ethics and good practice in third sector research.