Whenever I think about the outcomes of my work, I ask myself the question ‘What impact does voice have if no one is listening?’.
I have always been interested in marginalised communities and countering stereotypical accounts that circulate in the media. Such stereotypes inform our everyday thoughts about people, place and poverty.
I recently worked with colleagues in the Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE) on a Welsh Government project to examine educational experiences of children and young people who are looked after and care leavers. Our findings were published in a report, which is standard practice.
However, we were keen to take them to political, personal and practice-based audiences. It was important to communicate the central findings of our study in easily accessible materials. Assisted by funding and support from the University’s Engagement team, we worked with artists, musicians and filmmakers to create four short films, three music videos and three pieces of artwork.
Busy practitioners may not have time to read detailed reports, but these creative outputs allow for a temporary immersion in the lives of children and young people. That these materials are portable and Open Access has enabled communication with a wider and more diverse viewing public. The arts-based techniques provided an opportunity to translate and represent research findings, contributing to informed policy and practice.
We are continuing to engage with communities in diverse ways, drawing on multi-modal approaches, workshops and collaborative activities. Reports and academic articles are important but they do not always generate enough impact with the people who can negotiate change. Creative, collaborative and innovative approaches to both conducting and disseminating research are one way to both move beyond the ivory tower, learn from communities and make universities more accessible spaces.