Peer Research

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Groundswell’s Peer Research

The starting point for making positive social change is finding out what is really going on. People at the sharp end of homelessness and other social problems have a unique insight into how things work – and where they don’t work. People who know where gaps in the net as they have fallen through themselves – and taking part in research and sharing your experiences can ensure that others do not follow.

What’s different about the way we do research?

Groundswell use Participatory Action Research (PAR). This means that we don’t jet in researchers, take all your information and head for the hills. We involve people in the process research – ensuring that findings are really owned by participants.

We try to be creative when developing methods enabling the contribution from all that want to get involved. Sometimes that means using focus groups, one to one interviews, video diaries or lots of different coloured sticky dots! We also borrow techniques from ‘Open Space Technology’, ‘Citizens Jury’, ‘Consensus Decision Making’ and others. Using a range of techniques often means a range a people will be able to participate.

Groundswell work with Peer Researchers; people who have experienced the issues we are studying. Ideally we train up individuals in the places we are conducting the research; but if not we have a pool of researchers we can draw on.

Typically we will establish a steering group to guide the whole process – from developing the themes to promoting the recommendations – keeping the discoveries made alive long after we have left. Ideally the steering group includes representative of clients, workers, managers and whoever else has a stake in the research.

The product can be a report, an event or creating new materials- all designed at shedding new light on issues with practical recommendations for making a difference. The full involvement of stakeholders throughout ensures that a clear and shared plan of action to deliver change is the legacy of our research.


Examples of Groundswell’s Peer Research Work

Client Audits

The ‘Client Audit’ aims to uncover how services can better support clients to achieve outcomes. Groundswell developed this technique through working with homelessness agencies such The Passage and SHP, with the process also designed to spearhead client involvement in a service.

The Client Audit consists of four key parts:

1. Peer Researcher Training – designed to enable clients who are new to research to confidently and safely contribute to the process.

2. Walk in Workshops – semi-structured interviews with clients examining how services help them to achieve outcomes.

3. Structured Questionnaires are then developed from walk-in- workshops to uncover how widespread the findings are amongst the client group.

4. A Steering Group – including clients, front-line workers and senior staff guide the process – taking responsibility for developing and following up recommendations.

Homelessness Strategies

Between 2006- 2008 we undertook research with people experiencing homelessness in areas such as the City of Liverpool, London Borough of Croydon and Telford & Wrekin Council to help develop their local Homelessness Strategies. In each area, homeless people’s views and experiences helped to shape the ways in which Local Authority services will work over the next five years to prevent homelessness and help people who are homeless to move on.

Aiming High: Sport for All is a three-year project aimed at enabling homelessness services to develop and deliver opportunities for sport. Groundswell are contributing peer research to provide homeless people’s perspectives on this. The project is coordinated by Homeless Link and funded by the Football Foundation.

Groundswell research includes client perspective on the perceived benefits and barriers to sports; Individual Project Studies – intended to highlight the activities, learning and good practice of specific agencies; Event Analyses – focused on multi-agency sports events; a study intoh Women & Sports, Case Studies of individual clients participating in sport and two Good Practice Guides. These are all available online at

Please contact us if you are interested in discussing peer research with us.

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