On Saturday I attended an informal workshop at The Royal College of Art called Designing Participation, which was led by PhD researcher Jack Champ from Kingston University. The objective of the workshop was to share ideas on how to engage participants during the research process. I joined the afternoon in hopes of getting some concrete ideas about what to keep in mind when planning workshops, and this is exactly what I left with. The things that came up during the afternoon will be useful in the planning stages of my own upcoming workshop.
The group was small but we had a good discussion about what to be aware of when organising workshops that engage people in your research. We discussed the topic in pairs based on mutual themes – my group’s connecting theme was empathy – and compiled a list of things to consider.
After writing down the key points on a big white balloon, we had a brief conclusive discussion with the other groups.
These are some of the things that came up:
Test it yourself. When you test potential workshop activities yourself you will have better understanding of what the participants are experiencing. Be mindful of the researcher-research subject relationship. Does your presence affect the result and in what way? Think about the space and atmosphere. What kind of mood do you want to set? Do not start with the 'blank page' as this can feel very intimidating. Provide some stimuli as an introduction (e.g. visual imagery, music, objects, etc.) while still leaving space for people to create and interpret freely; there is a difference between offering stimuli and imposing structure. Co-creation. In some cases you may want to engage in the activities together with the participants.