How the research was done

Ruth Patrick avatar
Ruth Patrick
University of York

The Covid Realities research programme required us to respond speedily to the Covid-19 context, and to develop new methodological strategies to cope with an uncertain and fast changing context. As a research team, we worked collaboratively and iteratively, learning as we went. We did this by drawing on an incredible range of expertise – from parents and carers themselves to artists and our fantastic advisory group.

Below, we set out the three key stages of the participatory online work.

April - July 2020

Getting started

Like building a house, foundations matter, and we spent the first three months of the project building our partnership approach and figuring out exactly how we were going to work collaboratively with parents and carers living on a low-income during a pandemic.

  • We developed our core ethical approaches of reciprocity and care; and explored what these meant in practical terms.
  • We found a fantastic web developer - Tom Flannery - to work with; and to help us build our safe online space for families to share their experiences of the pandemic.
  • We conducted an exploratory study, which trialled our diary approaches.

July 2020 - July 2021

Documenting life on a low income during the pandemic

Over a year, we worked with parents and carers to document their experiences and develop recommendations for change.

  • We created flexible and varied mechanisms for parents to get involved; which included leaving online diary entries; responding to big questions of the week; and taking part in virtual discussion groups.
  • We facilitated zine making workshops, so participants could make a 'Covid Realities' zine; and pursued opportunities for participants to take part in debates about social security and covid. This led to participants speaking to the media, to politicians and at national conferences and events.
  • We also published rapid-response briefing papers and blogs; sharing emergent findings.
  • Critically, we also re-shared parents' diary entries and big ‘question of the week’ responses through our live archive. This provides a rich account of lives lived through the pandemic.
“My life is all about my kids and my work. Trying to give the children a bit of routine, not destroy their future with my appalling homeschooling and try to not let lockdown affect their childhoods too much.”

The next phase of this participatory research focused on getting the findings from the project out to as wide an audience as is possible.

To do this we published a book, working with parents to help us figure out what to include. 'A Year Like No Other: Life on a Low Income during COVID-19' is available online.

August - December 2021

During this phase we be focused on getting the findings from the project out to as wide an audience as is possible. We published a book, and worked with parents to help us figure out what to include in it. We also met with participants to finalise project recommendations and reflected on the approach we took in this project.

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