The Research Approach

The Research Approach

The Research Approach

Together we are developing more democratic, dialogic-centred and shared approaches for nurturing and engaging in the artistic life of Ballyogan.
The goals for Exit 15 are set out below. Central to these objectives is the notion that the project itself is a piece of action-research, centred on the local authority Arts Office in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and people living and working in Ballyogan learning more about what arts participation means: to individuals, to different institutions and as part of the fabric of local life.  This inquiry is about building the capacity of all involved to collectively developing more democratic, dialogic-centred and shared approaches for nurturing and engaging in the artistic life of Ballyogan. In the longer term, DLR Arts Office seeks to apply this learning to the development of their work in other areas of the County.

Short Term Objectives

Promoting and Increasing Public Engagement with the Arts in Ballyogan

To increase engagement with DLR Arts Office

To develop a high-quality artistic programme in collaboration with people living and working in Ballyogan

Building Community Capacity in Arts and Culture

To develop a high-quality artistic programme that is reflective of, and responsive to, the needs and interests of the people living and working in Ballyogan

To build on existing activity and further develop DLR’s practice in working with local communities to develop local arts provision that is responsive to the cultural needs and interests of local communities

Developing and Shaping Local Arts Policy Development

To learn more about processes for working with local communities on determining and developing local arts provision and support

To monitor, evaluate and reflect on the work in partnership with other local authorities, specifically Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Belfast City Council in Northern Ireland, and an academic researcher based at Queen’s University Belfast

Long Term Objectives

Promoting and Increasing Public Engagement with the Arts in Ballyogan

To increase engagement with publicly funded arts, i.e. the fine and performing arts

To enable high quality collaborative arts practice to develop and thrive in this area

Building Community Capacity in Arts and Culture

To develop understanding of how DLR County Council’s Arts Office provision and support might fit within a broader cultural ecosystem

 

 

 

 

Developing and Shaping Local Arts Policy Development

To develop and further implement a new model of practice for developing and nurturing local arts provision and support

To work with existing, and establish new, partners to build a wider sharing of practice in this work amongst local authorities on the island

Action Research

As Exit 15 emerged as part of a longer process of inquiry, begun in 2016, into the artistic, cultural and creative interests of people living and working in Ballyogan by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Arts Office and Voluntary Arts Ireland, the research approach sees this work as a further step in an ongoing process. Capturing impact, in this instance, is therefore about capturing and understanding a “sequence of events” and experiences within a longer continuum (Brown and Novak Leonard 2013, p. 13).

As a result, exploring Exit 15 as an action research project has rested on the idea that “knowing occurs with the act, the process of constructing issues and seeking improvements“ (Collins and Ison, 2006, p. 11). Such a learning framework is appropriate for analysis of arts and cultural policy, activities and programmes aimed at participation, especially as participation processes are typically viewed as learning processes in and of themselves (Collins and Ison 2006; Parsons 2002).

Action research is an on going, flexible process of applied research that joins practice-based “action (change, improvement) and research (understanding, knowledge) “ (Costello, 2011, p. 6). It involves both reflective practice (Schön, 1983) and experiential learning (Kolb, 1984). This approach is in contrast to “traditional policy instruments” typically built on the belief that knowledge is static or permanent (Collins and Ison, 2006, p. 11). Continual reflection is at the heart of the research process with everyone involved bringing unique expertise to the process.

A Learning Framework

Understanding processes of change requires consideration of who learns, what is learned and how that learning is applied. In order to understand any possibility of capacity building, the role and experiences of the various individuals involved must be considered alongside the terms (like ‘arts’ and ‘participation) and conditions (like programme design, organizational structures, physical infrastructure, financial resources and individuals’ existing and developing skills) present within Exit 15. As a result, individuals’ meanings and experiences of the processes facilitated by Exit 15 and the ensuing capacities built from the perspective of the local authority and people living and working in Ballyogan are the focus of this research.

An interpretive and social learning framework has thus been applied here. Learning is related to our changing abilities to “participate, belong, [and] negotiate meaning”, mutual engagement and shared endeavours (Wenger, 1998, p. 226). The research is thus seeking to understand the meaning of the actions, as well as the actions themselves and the experiences of them, undertaken in this project from the viewpoint of the individuals involved within their specific institutional, local and personal contexts.

There are a number of indicators of change that we have identified as part of this process, which can be made available upon request, but overall, this means

  • Capturing an understanding of what life is like in Ballyogan from the perspective of various people living and working there, including community and youth support services and the local authority
  • Learning about what relationship Ballyogan ‘life’ has to the artistic activities in which people in Balloygan take part, as perceived by those individuals
  • Capturing what artistic activities are facilitated by Exit 15 and understanding people’s various experiences of those
  • Documenting the processes for participation (in the arts as well as decision-making about local arts provision) employed in, and by means of, the Exit 15 project: who takes part, why, how and by what access points and toward what end

In practice, methods have involved:

  • Walking tours with people living and working in Ballyogan, discussing key sites, moments and activities in the area to assist in understanding what life is like in Ballyogan. The aim has been that the tours will “activate memories and histories” (Aoki and Yoshimizu, 2015, p. 278) as well as illuminate any new ones that may result from Exit 15.
  • Photography-based focus group discussions of key sites and moments in Ballyogan (historically and through Exit 15) to capture viewpoints on what life is like with people living and working in Ballyogan
  • Interviews with artists involved in the project regarding their interpretation, processes and experiences of the project and of Ballyogan
  • Interviews with participants involved in the project regarding their experiences of the project as well as their motivations for getting involved
  • Observation and participant observation of Exit 15 activities
  • Capturing the ways in which the arts activities themselves illuminate what life is like in Ballyogan

As developing and shaping local arts policy development is a key objective of Exit 15, much attention has been paid to documenting and reflecting on the learning gained with the Arts Office team as well as with the local community. This is an on going process and has taken place through different methods:

  • Interviews with Arts Office staff involved in the project regarding their interpretation, processes and experiences of the project and of Ballyogan
  • Monthly meetings with key staff directly involved in the project to critically reflect on the project activity and research to date in order to adjust and respond to developments as they arise.
  • Diaries kept by key staff regarding self-identified changes to perceptions and practice resulting from project activity
  • Sharing sessions with the local community on research findings in order to gather response and feedback and critically reflect on the researcher’s perceptions of what is occurring in the project, why and how

In examining all of these points, the research is seeking to understand the implications the project has for facilitating democratic, dialogic-centred and shared approaches for local arts provision and support within the specific context of Ballyogan—its organisations, institutions and people.

Academic Works Cited

Aoki, J., and Yoshimizu, A. 2015. Walking histories, un/making places: Walking tours as ethnography of place, Space and Culture, 18(3), pp. 273-284.

Brown, A. and Novak-Leonard, J. 2013. Measuring the intrinsic impacts of arts attendance, Cultural Trends, 22(3-4), pp. 223-233.

Collins, K. and Ison, R. 2006. Dare we jump off Artnstein’s ladder? Social learning as a new policy paradigm, in Proceedings of PATH (Participatory Approaches in Science and Technology), conference, 4 – 7 June, Edinburgh.

Costello, P. 2011. Effective action research: Developing reflective thinking and practice, London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Dart, J. and Davies, R. 2003. A Dialogical, Story-Based Evaluation Tool: The Most Significant Change Technique, American Journal of Evaluation 2003 24, pp. 137 – 155.

Kolb, D. (1984) Experiential learning as the science of learning and development, London: Prentice-Hall.

Schön, D. (1983) The reflective practitioner, New York: Basic Books.

Wenger, E. 1998. Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Froggett, L., Maley, J. and Roy, A. 2015. The visual matrix method: Imagery and affect in a group research setting. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, [online], 16(3), pp. 1 – 24. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/rt/printerFriendly/2308/3849

 

Dr. Victoria Durrer | Lecturer in Arts Management and Cultural Policy | School of Arts, English and Languages, Queen’s University Belfast

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