Review: Alternative Research Methods Training

Published on 31 March 2021 at 16:17

Lucie, board member of OtherWise and one of the coordinators of the Alternative Research Methods training 2021, wrote this review about the training for Re-imaginary. They are a collective of practitioners and researchers exploring how creative methods can support deep change towards just and ecological cultures. Find more here.

'OtherWise Foundation, a grass-roots student organization of Wageningen University in the Netherlands,has organized the third edition of its Alternative Research Methods Training(ARMT) in February 2021. This years’ organizers faced the same challenge as many other facilitators and teachers: redesigning the course for an online settings while trying to preserve its engaging, hands-on character.

We decided to embrace this challenge and explore how participatory, creative research methods can operate remotely. The Alternative Remote Research Methods Training (AR2MT) brought together a highly motivated group of 25 (aspiring) researchers,6 inspiring speakers and 4 energetic facilitators for 5 intensive days of shared learning.

As an extracurricular course, ARMT aims to complement research methodology courses offered by the university, and it also provides a space for re-imagining research and education. Inspired by the principles of Theory U, vertical literacy and transformative learning, it aims to create a safe and non-hierarchical learning environment in which students can experiment in a playful way and engage actively in their own learning. For this reason, the course has no grades or formal evaluation.

We see research and education as deeply personal processes,which do not engage only our rational minds but also our bodies, emotions and physical environments – dimensions which deserve even more attention in an online setting. Apart from workshops, the training thus included moments of mindfulness with breathing exercises. To take a break from the screen and reconnect with our senses and physical environment, we also encouraged participants to go outside, guided by the nature journal.

Nature Journal design by Evelien Konings

We used storytelling and regular energizers and check-in and check-out moments to maintain the group energy and engagement, turning the training itself into an experience with remote knowledge co-creation. Miro became the training’s digital home, facilitating collective working with text, visual and sound materials (and highly suitable for techniques such as online silent conversation). During the content workshops, participants learned about positionality and a more personal approach to research, netnography and the use of social media, gaming research and citizen science.

Last but not least, Angela Moriggi’s workshop on 'Creating safe spaces online' introduced basic principles of process design and facilitation, as well as a few of Re.imaginary tools. A number of creative techniques appeared in the small research projects participants designed and executed during the training, including the timeline of transformation, diverse variations on photo-voice and collective visual mapping, as well as an interactive game. As one of the course participants put it, exploring ways of doing creative, participatory research remotely “really opened up some doors in a period in which many doors seem to be closed”.'

One of the exercises proposed by Angela Moriggi in her workshop on 'Creating safe spaces online'

Group picture of the participants of the ARMT course organized by Otherwise Wageningen