How does co-produced research make a difference?

Exploring meanings, value and impacts of co-producing research

There is a high degree of interest and a number of drivers across disciplines and sectors advocating the use and potential of co-produced research or inquiry – as well as co-production of a wider range of objects such as policy, service design and implementation. This collaborative-relational research approach is promised to enhance research quality, produce findings that are more meaningful and resonant with communities at the sharp end of policies or practices, as well as to democratise processes of knowledge production. Here, democratisation means connecting on an equal footing different knowers, knowledges and ways of knowing. The process of co-producing may be as valuable as the output. 

My work sits in the tension between these promises and the felt experience of many people who are co-producing, that this approach ‘works’; and a relative lack of formal evidence and theory supporting the outcomes or impacts. This relative lack interacts with a want of conceptual clarity and agreement about what co-production really means and how it articulates with other traditions of public participation and participatory research. Complex processes like co-production are hard to evaluate, requiring approaches sensitive to complexity, and the evidence issue may in part relate to how different forms of ‘evidence’ are valued as such – or not. 

My interest is in critically exploring a number of questions. What shapes people’s journeys to co-production? How do they interpret and enact it in light of those situated journeys? How does co-producing research create value, from the points of view of different actors? What impacts are informed by the specific qualities of the processes and outputs of co-producing? And – does this trouble our  understandings of what ‘research impact’ looks like? 

My work is expected to feature multi-modal, qualitative inquiry, with different elements in conversation with one another. For further discussion of the starting place for this research, please read this blog post.

About Helen

Helen Berry is a PhD candidate in Social Policy at the University of Edinburgh, supported by the Binks Hub PhD Studentship. Helen is an applied social research and evaluation practitioner, with interests in evaluation design, meaningful, accessible and participatory approaches to creating and sharing knowledge, and animating knowledge and evidence for social impact.

You can find out more about Helen and her previous work here or connect with Helen on LinkedIn.

Want to share your research via the Binks Hub?

If you've got an idea for a research project – or are already working on a research project – which you'd like to talk to the Binks Hub about, please just send us an email. We'd love to hear from you.