Innovative Methodologies and Methodological Innovation

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About this project

This research explores the understanding and utility of innovative methodologies among researchers and research communities with a particular emphasis on critical reflexive approaches to research and fieldwork and a focus on research generated within the Hub. In doing so, the project examines the Hub’s feminist ethics including how they shape the research, members’ experience of enacting the Hub’s ethics, and to what extent the Hub upheld them during sustained and compounding crises.

The research project has also conducted two surveys with Hub researchers, one in 2020 and a follow-up in 2023 to learn more about their research methods and understanding of innovative methodologies. Overall, the intention is to establish what can we learn from this five-year collaborative and collective research experience to shape decolonial feminist ethics and the politics of research moving forward.

Key findings

Hub members use a wide range of traditional and innovative research methods.

Hub members understand innovation in research methods to involve conducting research in a context-specific considerate way or using creative research practices in a challenging environment. Many Hub projects report using more than one method or mixed methods, producing a diverse range of types of data including textual, audio, survey, tabular, visual, fabric, quantitative, and archival.

Researchers’ understanding of research methods.

Many Hub members note that their thinking on research methods has changed over the course of the Hub with an emphasis on finding the value and difficulties of practicing feminist research ethics in contexts of crisis and conflict. Hub members share that they have become more aware of safeguarding strategies, feminist ethics, and conducting collaborative research.

Reflexivity is essential to research.

Hub researchers emphasise that methodology, like research itself, is inseparable from how we want to be in the world and the kinds of worlds that we want to build through the knowledge that we cultivate.

Research is relational and community is central to the work.

People and relationships are the foundation of research, whether those are people that are living and working and having experiences that we want learn more about; people that have written scholarship that has changed our understanding; or whether it’s the people that will come after us and, and draw on the work that we do.

Crisis moments test the Hub’s feminist approach and show mixed results.

The Hub has faced sustained and compounding crises over five years, including budget cuts, Covid-19, and the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. These crises deeply impact the Hub and its researchers and test the extent to which feminist ethics could inform decision-making in practice. For example, the Hub’s feminist ethics should enable its researchers to be attuned to hierarchies and the uneven distribution of power – but the data from this project shows that this was not always the case.

There are multiple definitions of feminism, and multiple ways of doing feminist research, and this can create tension and challenges.

Reflections from Hub researchers shows that there is no agreement on what feminism means within the Hub. The lack of a shared understanding of feminism from the start of the Hub was a point of tension that presents persistent challenges in how the Hub could or should enact feminist principles and ethics.

What matters is the relationships that you build and how you nurture and sustain those through times of crisis, and that alone really will determine what is the shape of the organisation you’re left with when the dust settles

Recommendations

Researchers

  • Research methods must be grounded in an understanding that knowledge cultivation is always a collective act. Research needs to be designed and undertaken in collaboration with the communities it seeks to serve and researchers must recognise knowledge generation as a collective process. This fundamentally challenges traditional and individualist approaches to academic research and changes the way that we think about knowledge cultivation and kinship as essential to research practices and field work.
  • Build Long-term relationships rooted in reflexivity. Ethical research takes time, care, and attention to one’s positionality. There is a need to challenge short-term journalistic methodologies, rapid ethnography, and extractivist approaches to research. Feminist research requires an effort to cultivate long-term research relationships, to being embedded in and with the communities being researched, and to thinking reflexively about our position within them.
  • Critically assess your research motives and the value you and your research bring to those it is about. There is a massive amount of research in conflict and crisis-affected contexts and many communities most directly impacted are over-researched. Always ask yourself repeatedly: Is my presence in this space absolutely needed? What is this research going to do for the people whose time and lives I am attempting to commodify for professional gain?
  • The implementation of feminist principles within large-scale research projects requires significant planning, resources, and commitment and a collective understanding of what feminism means. The consistent application of feminist principles in large-scale research projects requires anticipation of the challenges of doing such work. Being ready to respond to challenges that exclude, invisiblise or subjugate certain communities is essential.
  • Practice loving accountability. Feminist research requires a willingness to hold ourselves to account when we are not living up to the research ethics and ideals that guide our work. Researchers need to be able to call people in and to have a vocabulary for encouraging people to be reflective, to work in community, and to nurture relationships.