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Heart of Glass / A Modest Proposal


RESEARCH


H ——


METHO— DOLOGY


WE HAVE A LONG-TERM STRATEGIC RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PSYCHOSOCIAL RESEARCH UNIT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL LANCASHIRE (PRU) AS OUR RESEARCH AND EVALUATION PARTNER.


We work with the unit in a research and evaluation capacity to support our organisational objectives and those of the Creative People and Places Programme (CPP). Recognising that there is much to be learned about the commissioning and production of collaborative arts programmes in post-industrial zones that have hitherto seen little investment in the arts, we have adopted a participatory action research strategy. Our research plans have been designed to enable collaborators (artists, audiences, stakeholders, participants) to take an active role and sustain an interest in co-producing and understanding the knowledge gained throughout the programme and using it to develop and enhance practice.


PRU’s role is to collaborate in the production of a methodology that studies the programme through selected strands and projects, along with taking an overview of strategic development and commissioning, as well as the developing cultural imaginary, cultural capital and creative potential among the residents of St Helens. The unit supports Heart of Glass throughout the programme in assessing how far it is meeting its aims, objectives and ambitions. The research collaboration between Heart of Glass and PRU develops and disseminates publicly available new knowledge of local, national and international significance.


To engage critically with the complex, nuanced and sometimes agonistic relational processes involved in stimulating and sustaining engagement and participation in the arts:


yySupporting action research objectives, PRU positions itself as a research partner working within the programme rather than as an external evaluator. Emergent findings are iteratively fed back into the programme via a group constituted for the purpose that includes key programme and project leads.


y yPRU has a wide range of established and innovative methods at its disposal. In line with its aim to use arts congruent methodologies, a ‘bespoke’ study design has evolved as the programme has taken shape. This ensures that methods selected are responsive to the activity or artwork that is being studied at any given time (indicative methods and their purpose are listed below). This flexibility also ensures that the research can respond to emergent and changing priorities.


yyPRU’s role has both ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ dimensions, using methods that support both emic and etic approaches to generating data.


yyPRU works within a ‘realist evaluation’ model where the focus is on both outcome and mechanism or process (Pawson and Tilley 1997). The virtue of this approach in relation to a programme that aims to embed itself in a region with considerable diversity among its communities, is that all findings are carefully contextualised aiming to explain what works, for whom, and in what circumstances.


y yPRU’s involvement allows for the formation of a longitudinal perspective, as well as cross-sectional perspectives at particular moments in time.


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