Issue 8 - Featured Images-04

Sania Shakoor and Heather McMullen are from the Violence Academy’s academic partner London’s Queen Mary University. They share some thoughts on how they hope to build a meaningful collaboration and how we can effectively work with communities affected by violence to provide a meaningful contribution to the evidence base.

We’re very conscious that some people in this space have been excluded in the past. So, we believe it will be vital to ensure that everyone has positive collaborative experiences in the future.

Accessibility will be a guideline for us. We can’t have an ivory tower. This stuff’s going to need to have real world impact. That means we really need to be supporting the people who are on the ground, so that their contributions will be heard and valued.

Recognising multiple different kinds of expertise, including that of community organisations and young people, will be really central. That will mean engaging with groups that traditionally haven’t been involved in university spaces. Making spaces accessible will be an important focus for us. That’s part of Queen Mary’s vision and mandate so it’s very much the ethos we hope to bring to the project.

But thinking about accessibility in multiple different kinds of ways will be important. It will mean looking at what our engagement activities look like and what kind of language we use. One thing we’ll be thinking about is making information more accessible. We’ll try to develop infographics and other imaginative ways of presenting information in ways that are relevant and accessible to people who don’t find it very interesting to read scholarly papers.

There are such a lot of unhelpful narratives and conversations about groups affected by violence. These need to be overcome and that’s best done by having their voices at the centre. A key thing is going to be making sure young people feel heard and feel confident that they have autonomy and their participation in the research process isn’t just tokenistic. Getting involved in co-production and co-design (meaning young people being included in creating accessible research tools and accessible forms of information sharing) will be extremely important. We will be looking to include young people’s lived experience in the research process from start to finish.

It’s a little harder to involve young people when you’re doing desk reviews (meaning reading and synthesising all the research that’s already been done on this topic). But we can still bring what we’re finding into our conversations with communities and say: Here’s some of what we’re seeing in the published data. What do you think about it? Does it reflect your knowledge and your experiences? Does this feel right to you based on what you’re seeing? There are always ways of bringing people in.

There’s been too much research on and not enough meaningful research with communities. We really, really emphasise the fact that this will be research with people and not just research on them.

We hope young people will be truly meaningful collaborators and co-creators in what we produce together. And we hope people feel that it’s their academy, really, that it’s accessible, and supportive. And we hope that it’s very much connected to the people on the ground and the people who are working on this. And we hope it works as a really supportive tool.

But most importantly we will be just thinking about how people are dealing with some of these issues and how we can help support young people whose lives are so profoundly affected by violence.

Sania [] is a lecturer in mental health with an overarching interest is child and adolescent mental health. Her research has explored some of the underlying mechanisms that shape the mental health of vulnerable individuals.

Heather [] is a social scientist with experience of working on a project called HEAL [] (Health Engagement to Avoid interpersonal injury in young Londoners), which aims to aims to understand why and how a public health approach to serious youth violence can improve wellbeing across the community.

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