February 17, 2016, by Centre for Applied Social Research
The UoN Post Graduate Children and Childhood Network: A Space for Sharing.
Author: Helen Woods
I started my PhD programme in 2014 after a career in social work with young people and their families. I’d kind of assumed my work experience would set me up for researching the experiences of children and young people. While this has been the case, I wasn’t entirely prepared for the rigor involved in the research process, particularly the depth of debates around ethics, consent, and meaningful participation, to name but a few. I had of course encountered these considerations in social work. However, in the often coercive arena of Youth Offending they took up different amounts of space, at different times.
Luckily I discovered I wasn’t alone with these dilemmas, as a post graduate group had been set up as part of the University of Nottingham’s Children and Childhood Network (CCN), enabling those of us researching children and young people to come together. The purpose is to connect and raise awareness of current research projects among those with similar interests, who may wish to share knowledge, experience and resources. I found that while the range of projects and experiences are diverse, there is often common ground on issues such as access, confidentiality and the actual experience of talking to children in a various settings.
Over the last 12 months the PG-CCN held regular events, including seminars from a range of disciplines, such as social work, education and law, and an annual conference on ‘Child Participation and Academic Research’. The conference had an attendance of 40 delegates and received excellent feedback. I’m hoping to conduct an ethnographic study of children’s Residential Care and was struggling to gain access for my pilot project. However, at the conference I met a fellow researcher who was able to provide a contact for children’s homes, which enabled my pilot study to go ahead. Sharing experiences also means we can learn from one another in terms of what has worked, and what we could have done differently, which will hopefully improve the experiences of the children and young people who participate, giving us their time and trust.
There will be a range of events this year run by both the PG-CCN and the CCN. The next PG meeting will be at the Engineering School Graduate Centre 11-12 on March 8th where we will have talks from fellow PhD students on their experiences of researching with children. We are also organising a Conference on the 6th May, concerning Justice, Rights and Participation. The CCN will be holding its Annual Lecture on April 20th, 5-6.30pm at Highfields House, and is also organising a schedule of workshops which will engage with local services such as social care and local schools. This is aimed at improving the way we work with others in undertaking research and ensuring our findings reach the right audience.
For further information on the (PG) CCN please get in touch.
Helen Woods, February 2016.
Helen is a first year Social Work PhD student at the University of Nottingham. Following 14 years of practice experience, mainly in the field of Youth Justice, Helen is now undertaking ethnographic research exploring the lived experience of children in Residential Care utilising sociological theories of personhood and belonging, self and environment.