A new cohort of peer researchers has graduated from six weeks of remote training and officially joined The Young Foundation’s National Peer Research Network. The peer researchers hail from Sunderland, Ayrshire, Cardiff, Grimsby and London where they are currently interviewing people about the impact of Covid-19 on their lives and their communities.

Why peer research? 

Peer research is a participatory research method in which people with lived experience of the issues being explored take part in directing and conducting the research1. Peer research aims to move away from more ‘extractive’ models of social research2 and to empower people to affect positive change by participating in research with their own communities3. 

 There are many benefits to using peer research including: 

  • The ability to reach and involve ‘less heard’ voices in research itself 
  • Empowerment and skills development for the peer researchers taking part 
  • Being able to gather better quality and more authentic data into people’s lived experiences via peer researchers 

How is the network working? 

In response to the need for social distancing, our original plan to train the new group of peer researchers in person in London needed adaptation. After ensuring that all peer researchers felt confident taking part in online training sessions, we restructured the training curriculum to be delivered digitally over six weeks. 

In June, 15 peer researchers started conducting recorded phone interviews with people where they live to understand the impact of Covid-19 on their day to day lives and communities 

Initial findings from the research reveal a kaleidoscope of experiences. Some people like Lauren who is a mother of two living in East London, report enjoying the slower pace of life. She says that being at home with her partner as well as not having to rush between picking her kids up and getting to work removed a lot of pressure off her life 

Otherhave experienced hardship in the past months. Alfred in Cardiff describes how his sources of income have dried up due to the crisis which means he’s not been able to send money to his parents abroad. He has not seen friends for months and feels cut off from the world, which makes this period psychologically difficult in addition to his financial hardship. It’s been depressing, frustrating. In fact, I’ve never found myself in this kind of predicament. 

Over the coming weeks, the Young Foundation team will analyse the interview data in close collaboration with peer researchers to get a comprehensive understanding of community life during the pandemic. A report and evaluation of the pilowill be published in the early autumn. 

What’s next? 

  • Keep an eye open for the findings which will be published in September. 
  • We will also publish an evaluation of the digital peer research approach in September. 
  • Don’t miss Zoe Dibb’s talk about Peer Research as a method to safely engage diverse communities at times of uncertainty at NVivo’s virtual conference: Qualitative Research in a Changing World on 23rd September. Tickets can be purchased here. 

Interested in working with community researchers? 

 The Young Foundation team are experts in recruiting and training people from all walks of life to become peer researchers. Our flexible approach and carefully designed curriculum allow us to adapt and tailor training depending on individual and group needs. We can deliver training both in-person or completely remotely via Zoom sessions.  

We have experience training peer researchers aged 17-70 and have designed research projects to inform local regeneration plans, create new programme theories of change, understand social cohesion and conduct formative research to uncover insights about the lived experiences of groups traditionally seen to be ‘harder to reach’. 

If you are interested in recruiting and training peer researchers in your area, or want to work with our existing peer research network, please contact Zoe Dibb 

Community COVID-19 Posted on: 23 July 2020


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