12th International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, Urban-Champaign, Illinois.

Neil Carey recently participated in the 12th International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry (ICQI) which was held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign during May 18-21, 2016. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Qualitative Research in Neoliberal Times’.
The conference was preceded by a day of special interest group (SIG) meetings and Neil participated in of these for the SIG in Critical and Poststructural Psychology. With a panel of other speakers, he responded to and the question: What critical and post-structural theories do in qualitative research? The panel consisted of Angelo Benozzo, Svend Brinkman, Gale Cannella, Neil Carey, Marco Gemignani, Kenneth Gergen, Mirka Koro-Ljungberg, and Michael Kral, with each participant providing a provocation before opening the debate to the wider group of SIG participants. A wide-ranging discussion covered themes including: Post-inflected qualitative inquiry, Action and voice in qualitative research, power and social justice as a fundamental basis for qualitative research, Feminist inspired research, Indigenous Knowledge, and the need for a consideration of taking care of the researcher in such research endeavours.
Neil’s second paper was titled: Post-qualitative Movements: from Work Past to Future Uncertainty. Poststructuralism in the Neoliberal University in which he discussed the possibilities for transferring the poststructuralist sensibilities developed in his PhD to his current work as coordinator for Internationalisation in the Faculty of Health, Psychology and Social Care. Given the theme of the conference, this presentation called for re-thinking the idea that the internationalisation agenda in the academy be refracted through a critical lens so as to disrupt current notions that position internationalisation synonymously with neo-liberalism.
The conference was opened by two keynote addresses delivered on the Thursday evening, and was followed by two days of conference sessions which covered a range of topics including Arts-Based Research, Critical Qualitative research, Qualitative Health Research, and Critical Qualitative Psychology research. Professor Maggie Maclure, from the Education and Social Research Institute at Manchester Metropolitan University, delivered one of the keynotes. Her well-received paper asked the conference to consider the nature, purpose and intensity of conducting all forms of (critical) qualitative research.
ICQI is an ideal conference to take new and existing qualitative research work – and especially work that has a social justice agenda at its heart.

Rebecca and Jenny collaborate on an ESRC-Newton 3-year project…

Professor Rebecca Lawthom and Dr Jenny Fisher are part of a team from 5 UK Higher Education Institutes and academic partners in Brazil who have been awarded nearly £800,000 funding from the ESRC-Newton funds. The call for funding was ESRC Healthy Urban Living. The 3 year project (2016-2019) is being led by Dr Ryan Woolrych from the School of the Built Environment at Heriot-Watt University.  Other UK universities involved are the University of Edinburgh, the University of Northampton and Keele University.

The project is a cross-comparative study across six case study cities  in Brazil (Pelotas, Porto Alegre, Brasilia) and the UK (Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh).

There are three core aims: (i) to investigate how sense of place is experienced by older people from different social settings living in diverse neighbourhoods in Brazil and the UK; (ii) to translate these experiences into designs for age friendly communities that support sense of place; and (iii) to better articulate the role of older adults as active placemakers in the design process by involving the community at all stages of the research.

Jenny and Rebecca will lead Work Package 2 that will include participatory mapping workshops with the community to facilitate knowledge production from the ground-up.

Ageing populations in Brazil and the UK have generated new challenges in how to best design living environments that support and promote everyday social engagement for older people. The ageing-in-place agenda posits that the preferred environment to age is the community, enabling older people to retain a sense of independence, safety and belonging.Encouraging older adults to remain in their communities has contributed to planning and design concepts such as Age-Friendly Cities and Communities, Lifelong Homes and Liveable Neighbourhoods. However, current urban planning and
development models have overlooked the notion of sense of place, articulated through supports for active living, social participation and meaningful involvement in the community. Integrating sense of place into the built environment is essential for supporting active ageing, ensuring that older adults can continue to make a positive contribution in their communities and potentially reducing health and social care costs.


Street Connected Young People in Guatemala

Dr Andrew Stevenson and Dr Jeremy Oldfield have been awarded a BA/Leverhulme grant to explore the experiences of street connected young people in Guatemala.   The project begins in April, 2016 for 18 months.

The study will apply psychological knowledge and understanding to Street Connected Young People (SCYP) in Guatemala City, a population largely neglected in the literature. The aim is to investigate the ability of SCYP to demonstrate resilience in relation to three specific psychological constructs; mental wellbeing, social support and everyday cognitive skills. There is little research relating to these constructs in the developing world, and few studies with SCYP have focused on positive outcomes such as displaying resilience. The study adopts a mixed-method approach incorporating psychometric tests, survey data, ethnographic film, interviews and participatory photography. Participants will comprise SCYP recruited from two informal schooling projects, and a comparison group of young people with no experience of street life, drawn from a state school. 

Community Psychology – skills competencies and challenges

Rebecca Lawthom recently attended a forum organised by the European Community Psychology Association in Lisbon. The forum celebrates the 10th year of the European form of the organisation, and was entitled ‘Strengthening Community Psychology in Europe’. Participants from UK, Norway, Germany, Portugal and Italy attended the 2 day forum. Here are her thoughts on the event.

We debated, discussed and talked about the difficulties of strengthening the field of Community Psychology during difficult funding times. The neoliberal agenda, higher fees and employability agenda were discussed with some fervor and energy. Notions of engaged scholarship (not being sedentary academics) has become more difficult as metrics produce ideas of what is psychology and what ‘good’ academics should do. The valuing of community work, partnership building and engaging students in this has become more ‘risky’ or perceived as such and less valued.

The meeting was marked for me by three waves of community psychologists – the European founders were retired or nearing retirement, the middle group are working in increasingly tighter neoliberal spaces (some having left academic jobs) and the younger PhD students, multilingual scholars keen to get started.
We participated in a world café identifying the grand challenges facing society – migration, poverty, inequality and climate change were identified. The group is interested in developing a set of shared competencies although some question the ‘technicist’ tone of competency. We see the need for community psychology but not the market (again we need a business case to prove worth). A review of community psychology teaching across Europe suggests few specialist courses and much insertion of CP in other areas of psychology teaching.

If we want to strengthen community psychology we have to compete in tighter markets. In Manchester Metropolitan University, market forces have ended Masters provision, but to take forward a competency model, we are entering a competitive battle with other forms of professional Psychology. We have to take on a professional identity for this – a position which for participatory community psychology is riven with conflict . How do we make sense of our work within universities and entertaining civic engagement? MMU Place (@MMUPlace) is a project to bring this into the curriculum more clearly. We talked about the commons as a theoretical and practical idea. We increasingly need the commons and @critcompsy our work aligns with this. There is a possibility of a Knowledge Alliance between European partners exploring competencies funded through Erasmus funding. Beating to the tune of employability agenda, we will explore this avenue and feedback.

Scandic reflections

MMU and this research group were well represented in Finland and Sweden this week. We participated in the 3rd Carpe network conference hosted by Turku University of Applied Science in Finland. (http://www.tuas.fi/en/news/100/carpe-conference-turku-18-2052015/ ). It was lovely to reconnect with old friends and make new connections based on shared research and teaching interests. We noted that academic work has similarities and discontinuities across transnational boundaries. In Finland, for example, there are no fees for home and international students. However, there is a lively national discussion about charging post-graduate overseas students. There were great opportunities for sharing ideas about sharing the international experience for home students who cannot afford to engage with international mobility. We led sessions on impact, sustainable communities, austerity and care, and arts-based research. Further, we facilitated meetings about knowledge exchange and joint / dual programmes between Carpe partners. Turku is a beautiful city, located by the southern archipelago.

Two flights later we were in Malmo, having experienced the joys and efficiencies of Scandinavian air travel. This southern Swedish city was host to the tenth anniversary of the Community, Work and Family conference (the inaugural conference took place in 2005 at MMU). Find out more here: https://www.mah.se/english/faculties/Faculty-of-Culture-and-Society/Research/The-6th-International-Community-Work-and-Family-conference/Programme/

Up first was Carolyn Kagan, our emerita professor of community psychology who along with Suzan Lewis (ex-MMU) looked back and forwards to ongoing challenges the field. Community is a strong theme yet continues to be in the background at this conference in comparison to employment and work. We led sessions on austerity and families, diversity in LGBT communities, migrant workers, volunteering, and community spaces. University led community engagement was the subject of another keynote and generated interesting decisions about opening up university spaces for community-led research. In all, academics from MMU participated in 10 sessions including a half-day doctoral workshop.

Malmo is an interesting city, keen on sustainability where 170 nationalities reside and 50% of the population are under 35.  Malmo University is a beautiful new university, striving and succeeding in doing things differently, and challenging the established ways of  We took the Oreson bridge back to Copenhagen on the way home.