Research participants are not simply informants – interesting interview from Community Research

Extracts from the interview of October 2022

We (Community Research) asked community researcher Irene Ayallo why she got involved in research, and what she hopes for how community research is done in Aotearoa (New Zealand) .

What is the one thing you find yourself repeating, when it comes to how to do research well?

The one question I get asked a lot, especially by people new to research and do not know where to start, is, “how do you come up with a research topic, or how do you know what to research”. It is an interesting question because how I answer it has changed since my pre-undergraduate days, learning about the traditional ways of doing research and what makes effective research, especially from a postcolonial perspective. I keep repeating that the research topic should emerge in discussion or be based on practice within the community where the research outcomes will have the most impact; theory and practice should not be two separate focus areas. A good practice is informed by theory, and a good theory is formed from actual practice.

How is doing research well with former refugees or ethnic-migrants different from, say, pākehā communities?

I think that what makes research different or unique in our communities is the ‘immigration’ factor. While it may be true that many issues that former refugees or ethnic migrant communities face daily are similar to issues faced by other communities, it is the process of immigration that make our issues/problems unique. Migration and resettlement are complex processes and present challenges and opportunities for individuals and families. Moving to a new country challenges how people think about several issues, and therefore any research with our communities cannot ignore the impact and experiences of immigration.

In terms of methodologies for community research, what ones do you find yourself advocating for, and why?

Interesting question because I often let the research issue guide me to a research methodology. However, for addressing problems facing former refugees or ethnic migrants, I am partial to methodologies under the umbrella of Participatory Action Research. Methodologies which begin from the premise that research participants are not simply informants. They are capable of learning, changing, acting, and transforming their world. They can develop solutions both to their struggle and survival. Mainly, the participants involved have lived experiences when engaging with experiential issues. They hold the epistemic privilege of what works and what does not work. Therefore they should be co-collaborators in research.


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