Appreciating metaphor for participatory practice: constructivist inquiries in a children and young people's justice organisation

Helme, Marion (2002). Appreciating metaphor for participatory practice: constructivist inquiries in a children and young people's justice organisation. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis is framed as a first person action inquiry into participatory inquiry and practice. The context of the inquiry is a national voluntary organisation working for social justice for children and young people.

The thesis is developed in four connected Inquiry Strands: 1) the implications of researching within a constructivist epistemology; 2) the implications of self- aware research through inquiry into the history and traditions of the researcher; 3) how appreciating metaphor can help in researching understandings of participation;4) how appreciating metaphor can enhance participatory practising.

In connection with the first two Inquiry Strands the thesis identifies implications for epistemic and ethical practice. In connection with the third Inquiry Strand, the thesis first develops a theory of metaphor as relational and participative. This is then incorporated in a participatory methodology that can be applied in research with children, young people and adults and that embodies the output from the first two Inquiry Strands.

. The methodology includes elicitation of stories and pictures in conversations and activities, exploration of the contexts of the inquiry, the identification and exploration of metaphors in the stories and pictures, and the development of criteria for judging these metaphors for the enhancement of practice.

In developing the methodology the researcher draws on her experiencing of the fourth Inquiry Strand within the social justice organisation. The methodology is then used as a framework for explicating the fourth Inquiry Strand. This inquiry leads to the proposal of a set of metaphorical conditions for participatory practice: ‘purposeful activity’, ‘space for change’, ‘a safe place to learn’ and ‘reciprocal recognition’. The thesis concludes by reflecting on the four Inquiry Strands to identify learning concerning participatory inquiry in conditions of complexity and uncertainty and issues of power. Invitations are offered concerning changes in practices within the organisation, and for further research.

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