Social Research Methods and Research Practices > Social Research Methods
This chapter examines the Prevent strand of the government’s counterterrorism strategy as a form of regulation, exploring its evolving local reception and implementation over the period from the New Labour to the Conservative-led Coalition governments. Launched in 2007 by New Labour as a community engagement, ‘hearts and minds’ approach to countering violent extremism, Prevent set out to partner and engage with Muslim communities to address the causes of radicalisation. In its 2007 guise, this involved locally focused Muslim community engagement projects. That approach was widely criticised for the limited offer of engagement that it seemed to present and was beset by allegations that Prevent was a means by which the government sought to achieve the mass surveillance of British Muslims. Here, the chapter argues that it is important to consider the effects of regulation in ways that go beyond consideration of the aims and logics of regulatory systems, to analysing carefully the nature and implications of regulation in practice.
This chapter discusses experiments in shifting understandings of expertise and in co-producing research that formed the basis of the Productive Margins (PM) programme. Those experiments were structured as the Productive Communities Research Forum, a series of gatherings that included all active co-researchers and occurred every three to six months over the lifetime of the Productive Margins programme. Before discussing this experimental method, the chapter turns to co-production as a specific set of approaches to collaborative research which involves diverse voices. It brings together the Productive Margins principal investigator, community lead, arts and humanities lead, and one of the co-investigators who worked as a link between two projects and the core management group. These individuals have different research interests, forms of expertise, values, and standpoints on collaborative working in communities.
There is an urgent need to rethink relationships between systems of government and those who are ‘governed’. This book explores ways of rethinking those relationships by bringing communities normally excluded from decision-making to centre stage to experiment with new methods of regulating for engagement. Using original, co-produced research, the book innovatively explores how we can better use a ‘bottom-up’ approach to design regulatory regimes that recognise the capabilities of communities at the margins and powerfully support the knowledge, passions and creativity of citizens. The book provides essential guidance for all those working on co-produced research to make impactful change.
This concluding chapter seeks to build inductively from the findings of the research projects discussed in previous chapters, summarising their collective implications to address what makes it possible to regulate for engagement. It argues that the answer is a processual one. A threefold dynamic process underpins effective regulation for engagement, constituted by three factors that build upon and support each other. The chapter first elaborates on this threefold process, drawing on micro-illustrations from the preceding chapters. It follows by acknowledging the limits and perils of these dynamics, especially if they are institutionalised through traditional regulatory policy or legally enforceable programmes. Responding to these limits is the aim of the chapter’s conclusion, where it is argued that embedding these practices and processes in experientially sensitive infrastructure is the key to preserving and stabilising their creative potential.
This postscript offers both a celebration of the achievements of the Productive Margins research programme and an attempt to set it in the broader context of contemporary political possibilities — and constraints. Its particular focus is on attempts to transform universities into instruments of engagement and connectedness — to turn them inside out. This is an attempt to take the ‘productive’ emphasis of the programme seriously, and to ask how far, or in what ways, the engagement of ‘communities at the margins’ has the potential to transform university hierarchies of knowledge and power. In addressing this question, the programme raises a number of issues that, if pursued in future work, have a transformative potential. The chapter also considers further unresolved questions and their potential limits on the impact of transformative agendas.
There is an urgent need to rethink relationships between systems of government and those who are ‘governed’. This book explores ways of rethinking those relationships by bringing communities normally excluded from decision-making to centre stage to experiment with new methods of regulating for engagement.
Using original, co-produced research, it innovatively shows how we can better use a ‘bottom-up’ approach to design regulatory regimes that recognise the capabilities of communities at the margins and powerfully support the knowledge, passions and creativity of citizens. The authors provide essential guidance for all those working on co-produced research to make impactful change.
This introductory chapter sets out concerns with the current state of theories and practice in regulation. It identifies a fundamental problem of regulatory practice, which turns more and more inward-looking, shutting out the expertise of citizens who experience the effects of regulatory systems. It was this gap that led to the five-year research programme, ‘Productive Margins: Regulating for Engagement’, which led to this book. The chapter then presents a brief outline of the book, exploring both the methodology of co-production and citizens’ experiences of a number of substantive fields of regulatory practice in order that one can begin to see and know regulatory systems differently. Finally, the chapter sets the scene for explorations in regulating for engagement by illustrating some of the ways in which regulation is discussed — or not — in everyday life by drawing on interviews with participants in the research programme.
This chapter explores how contemporary social practice art materialises interactions between regulatory regimes and low-income families with children and enables disruptions of regulatory regimes in ways not possible using traditional social science approaches. It focuses on a research team that included artists Close and Remote. Here, the chapter explains how the team co-produced, with community members and academics, a socially engaged artwork — Life Chances — that aimed to generate new knowledges about the regulatory regimes that low-income families with children experience. Aiming towards a form of improvisational empathy, Life Chances worked with Thomas More’s (1516) Utopia and Ruth Levitas’s (2013) Utopia as Method as ‘a form of speculative sociology of the future’. By staging and troubling contradictory notions of ‘life chances’ through art, the chapter specifically asks how the regulatory services that families encounter in two urban settings — the Easton area of Bristol and Butetown, Riverside and Grangetown in Cardiff — shape, constrain, and enable the life chances of individual families and communities.
This chapter tells the story of a research-engagement project called Making, Mapping and Mobilising in Merthyr (otherwise known as the 4Ms project). The project explored young people’s sense of place and well-being while growing up in Merthyr Tydfil (hereafter referred to as Merthyr), a small post-industrial ex-mining and steel-making town in the South Wales Valleys. Once a hub of industrial activity and innovation, Merthyr has experienced a deep social rupture in recent years owing to deindustrialisation and the closure of ironworks, coal mines, and manufacturing industries that had served as cultural links underpinning the rhythms and rituals of Valleys life. The 4Ms project took place predominantly in a housing estate based on a design reputed to have been inspired in the 1950s by romantic Italian hilltop villages. The estate expanded in the 1970s, and by the 2000s, had become dilapidated and a place with high levels of unemployment. In a context of tightening austerity, this housing estate and the people living there have been subject to stigmatising media accounts fuelled by television’s ‘poverty porn’ industry and, at times, by local residents themselves. The ‘realities’ of poverty tend to be portrayed in popular media through no-hope narratives of despair.
This chapter focuses on the work co-produced with Coexist, one of the Productive Margins programme’s community partners, in response to the theme of ‘spaces of dissent’. Coexist is a social enterprise set up to create a space where different communities and individuals can grow, share, collaborate, and learn what it is to live in coexistence with each other. Coexist performs the role of regulator, responsible for the safety of the users of Hamilton House and ensuring that the project is economically sustainable. In the period covered by the research, Coexist discovered problems reconciling its core purpose and values — being open to all and providing space for the community — with the challenge of managing the unequal power relations that make this vision potentially unachievable. Here, the chapter foregrounds notions of dissent not only as a practical question facing Coexist, but also as a means of addressing wider issues of privilege, disagreement, and other difficult aspects of socially engaged work.