Co-designing non-hierarchical community arts research: the collaborative stories spiral

Paul Gilchrist, Claire Holmes, Amelia Lee, Niamh Moore, Neil Ravenscroft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to examine the potential and durability of arts practice as research through developing a new approach to arts research that challenges the conventional association between dominant constructions of community and dominant modes of research.Design/methodology/approach - A co-design approach, situated in arts practice, has been used to generate a conceptual framework that offers potential to open up the workings of communities by examining them from the standpoint of those who have everyday experience of these communities. Findings– The paper argues that there can no longer be clearly demarcated boundaries between "academics" and "community partners" in a genuinely co-designed arts research process. Rather, there are "research partners" who share mutual recognition of skills and experiences that allow them to commit to a durable "new creative scholarship" that reflects their collective identities. Social implications - The conceptual framework celebrates the life stories of individuals at the expense of the grand metanarratives favoured by empirical sociology and mainstream humanities. The framework reflects the commitment of the authors to create accounts of communities that do justice to their collective wisdom, dynamism and connectivity, as well as their transience, their needs to transform and their responses to change, in ways that reflect the lives of those involved rather than the needs of externally imposed disciplinary regimes.Originality/value - The conceptual framework is a new approach to qualitative research; its value lies in putting the participants at the heart of the research process where they not only generate narrative, but also situate, mediate and remediate it in ways that extend conventional participative research practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-471
Number of pages13
JournalQualitative Research Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

© Authors. Published by Emerald Group Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 3.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial & non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at The research upon which this paper is based was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), grant no. AH/K00669X/1: Networked Communities as Dynamic Co-Created Learning Environments.


  • Co-design
  • Arts practice
  • Community studies


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