'Beyond text': exploring ethos and method in co-producing research with communities

Beebeejaun, Yasminah; Durose, Catherine; Rees, James; Richardson, Joanna and Richardson, Liz (2014). 'Beyond text': exploring ethos and method in co-producing research with communities. Community Development Journal, 49(1) pp. 37–53.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/cdj/bst008


There is a critique of research conducted in communities which fails to include communities in its design and undertaking. In parallel, academic research is increasingly being measured according to its benefit to the wider society. Co-productive research is a response to these challenges which offers a way of recognizing the resource contribution of communities to research and emphasizing the conduct of research ‘with’ communities rather than ‘on’ communities. This article identifies the reliance on ‘text’ in the research process as a barrier to delivering meaningful co-productive research with communities. ‘Beyond-text’ tools are emerging across academic disciplines and include story-telling, performance, art and photography. Recent research emphasizes the empowering potential of these methods by facilitating greater reflection on the lived experience of those involved. This article looks at examples of research which have employed ‘beyond text’ methods to consider their potential to deliver co-produced research with communities. It also asks whether it is the application of specific technical approaches and methods, or the underlying ethos within which research is conducted that is most critical to challenging unequal power relationships. It argues that beyond-text methods need to be applied within a wider set of values which re-conceptualize the role of the researcher working with communities.

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