Skip to Content
Our rights our communities blog 3

Our Rights Our Communities: The benefits of community-based research

23 Nov 2022 | Lily Owens-Crossman

Since March 2022, I have had the brilliant opportunity to be a research intern on the ‘Our Rights, Our Communities’ project, which aimed to develop a community-based model of advocacy among New Scots women in Glasgow. I have been providing support to the monitoring and evaluation team, made up of six peer researchers and one professional researcher from Glasgow Centre for Population Health.  

At the same time, I was studying for an MRes in Global Migrations and Social Justice at the University of Glasgow. Throughout my studies, I had been taught about participatory research approaches and seen the growing turn towards them, especially in research with marginalised refugee and migrant communities. My internship allowed me to explore beyond the assumption that participatory approaches are the ‘right’ way to do research, to understand how a community-based research project works in practice and what the tangible benefits, and associated challenges, might be for peer researchers and their communities. 

What were the benefits of using peer research? 

When I joined the monitoring and evaluation team, I was struck by the peer researchers’ depth of knowledge about their communities, and the level of insight and relevance that this brought to all stages of the research process.  

This was particularly valuable when it came to interviews, where peer researchers were uniquely able to create safe and accessible research spaces for the women in their communities to express themselves. Having existing relationships with participants, a shared sense of womanhood and sometimes a shared language were essential to establishing the trust that made for sensitive and meaningful research encounters. 

Because the peer researchers in this project were already established and working within their existing communities to support other women, the knowledge they gained had clear application and impact beyond the research process. Discovering more about the women in their communities and the barriers they faced equipped the peer researchers to provide and develop further support for women. 

Lily quote image

From the outset, this project was driven by the needs of the community, and prioritised power sharing by having peer researchers decide and lead on all aspects of the research process. Doing so helped to recognise the power and skills that refugee and migrant women already hold, gave them the tools to represent themselves in research and have their voices heard by decision makers. 

What were the challenges? 

In this project, there was a dual language barrier both in terms of academic language and English not being the first language of the peer researchers. This was given careful attention throughout the project, with plenty of time for questions and reflection in the weekly team meetings and information provided verbally and written. Print and digital versions of documents were always given to everyone to take away and weekly session summaries were emailed to the whole team. 

While peer researchers’ proximity to their participants produces many benefits, it may also heighten the emotional impact of the research process and make it difficult for peer researchers to set boundaries. Peer researchers had training on boundary setting, were aware of support organisations and had a supportive relationship with the professional researcher. In addition, because many of the peer researchers in this project already knew each other within their community organisations, they were a close group which provided them with a strong peer support network. 

In co-production we often emphasise that the whole research process is a constant learning experience for all those involved, and challenges will inevitably arise along the way. On my part, the research team have taught me so much about what successful community-based research looks like, which often means letting go of what you think you know about research and how things ‘should’ be done. Instead, the flexible and truly collaborative approach of this project, which centred the expertise of lived experience, helped to produce research with real value and impact for communities of refugee and migrant women. 

This blog is part of a series produced for Co-Pro Week 2022. The other blogs in the series can be accessed here: 

Blog 1, Lydia – ‘Our Rights, Our Communities: Knowledge is power’

Blog 2, Lisa – ‘Our Rights, Our Communities: Co-production in practice’

Blog 4, Group – ‘Our Rights, Our Communities: the empowerment of being a peer-researcher’

Next arrow right

Our Rights, Our Communities: The empowerment of being a peer researcher

arrow left Previous

Our Rights, Our Communities: Co-production in practice

Back to

News & Blogs