Reflections on Reconfiguring Methods During COVID-19: Lessons in Trust, Partnership, and Care

Katharine McKinnon, Ann Hill, Margie Appel, Deborah Hill, Jo Caffery, Barbara Pamphilon

This paper is a set of reflections from researchers in the Center for Sustainable
Communities, University of Canberra, drawing out emerging lessons from the process
of re-configuring research methods during COVID-19. The pandemic has presented
new spaces of negotiation, struggle, and interdependence within research projects and
research teams. It has left researchers often uncertain about how to do their work
effectively. At the same time, it has opened up opportunities to re-think how researchers
undertake the work of research. In this paper we reflect on several current research
programs that have had to undergo rapid design shifts to adjust to new conditions under
COVID-19. The rapid shift has afforded some surprisingly positive outcomes and raised
important questions for the future. In our reflections we look at the impact of COVID-19
at different stages of designing research with partners, establishing new relationships
with partners and distant field sites, and data collection and analysis. We draw on
Participatory Action Research (PAR) methodological ideas and highlight ways in which we
have adapted and experimented with PAR methods during the pandemic. We reflect on
the aspects of PAR that have assisted us to continue in our work, in particular, how PAR
foregrounds diverse ways of knowing, being and doing, and prioritizes local aspirations,
concerns and world views to drive the research agenda and the processes of social
or economic change that accompany it. PAR also helps us to reflect on methods for
building relationships of mutual trust, having genuine and authentic collaborations, and
open conversations. We reflect on the potential lessons for PAR and community engaged
research more generally. Amidst the challenges, our experience reveals new pathways
for research practice to rebalance power relationships and support local place-conscious
capacity for action.

Suggested citation

McKinnon, K., Hill, A., Appel, M., Hill, D., Caffery, J., Pamphilon, B. (2022). ‘Reflections on reconfiguring methods during COVID-19: Lessons in trust, partnership and care’, Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems