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Collaborative Research

Research as collaboration: creating new knowledge systems

By taking our research beyond the data, PaCSIA establishes a collaborative endeavour rooted in cultural nuance and multidisciplinary frameworks. The aim isn’t just to understand but also to connect, share knowledge, build relationships and create new and innovative ideas and approaches together. By partnering with local peacebuilders and practitioners, we turn research into a joint venture, generating insights that are as locally informed as they are globally relevant. This also includes giving the results of the research back to communities and engaging them in decision-making on how research results and community data is used ethically.
Take our Bougainville Transitional Dialogues framework for example, which involved multiple lenses – political, economic, cultural and spiritual – across 33 constituencies. As we explore, we uncover untapped strengths, empowerment, economic resources and fresh engagement.
Collaboration with local co-researchers and practitioners adds significantly to the engagement process. Working as a team results in more resources and creativity to deal with problems arising during the research and intervention design, and when working with local communities, co-facilitations leads to better engagement if facilitators exhibit different facilitation styles (e.g., one facilitator is more energetic; the other is more reflective). Working with local facilitators and researchers also helps to create an atmosphere in which participants feel that the research or intervention is directly relevant to them and grounded in local custom and legitimacy. Just as boat captains rely on local pilots to help them manoeuvre in unknown waters, peacebuilding researchers and practitioners can work together with local colleagues to conduct grounded, respectful and locally valuable research and training.
Local co-facilitators and researchers do not necessarily have to be highly trained and experienced conflict resolution experts. Often co-researchers and facilitators come from other backgrounds and have different strengths. Sometimes they are members of local universities or NGOs that we partner with; sometimes they are what the Reflecting in Peace Practice project would call the connectors in a community. They are the peacemakers, interested in increasing mediative capacities and in working through difficult conflict situations. They are also the local guides who know the conflict situation better than any outside intervener and they often have legitimacy in local communities.
The collaboration should start with jointly designing the conflict resolution workshop and with co-creating the program and the discussion of possible activities. In our own research and facilitation practice and in line with our dialogical principles, my colleagues and I present some of our ideas to our co- facilitators and ask them to critique them and to present their own. We use elicitive processes to develop research questions and methodologies together and we constantly try to compare our understanding and that of our local colleagues. Through this initial research planning dialogue we build a program that is a combination of local and introduced processes and we build relationships within the research team that help model constructive conflict engagement across cultures to the workshop participants. Our local colleagues have mentioned that this modeling of collaborative practice has had a tremendous effect on some of the groups they have worked with. Just as important as the beginning of a research journey is the end: together with our local colleagues we plan methods to provide research results back to communities and facilitate discussions over what the research means for local participants.