Peer Research

Out of homelessness comes insight; out of insight comes action

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. Sometimes the only way to know where gaps in the net are is if you have fallen through them, and taking part in research and sharing your experiences can ensure that others do not follow.

A Peer Researcher interviewing someone

What’s different about the way we do research?

We work with peer researchers – people who have experienced the issues we are studying – either training up people locally, in the place where we are conducting the research; or from our own team. We involve people affected by the issues in all stages of the research process ensuring that findings are really owned by participants.

“Formal” researchers can struggle to overcome some people’s mistrust of authority figures, whereas the empathy and shared connection of peer researchers can get the real picture. Often peers can be the only ones who can engage “hard to reach” homeless people. We utilise a broad range of methods to access a broad range of people.

Putting Groundswell’s peer research findings together with the extensive data from our service delivery means that we have a genuine and unique grassroots insight into the realities of homelessness.

We use a variety of creative methods to enable a wide range of people to participate. This includes utilising techniques from “Open Space Technology”, “Citizens Jury”, “Consensus Decision Making” and others.

The product of Groundswell Research can be a report, an event or creating new materials, all designed to shed new light on issues. We always focus on practical recommendations and a clear and shared plan of action, so that delivering genuine change is the legacy of our research.

People looking at a bus route map

Examples of Groundswell’s peer-led research work

The Escape Plan

The Escape Plan is a peer research study conducted by and for homeless people to help identify the critical success factors that have enabled people to move on from homelessness. Peer researchers undertook in-depth qualitative interviews with 25 formerly homeless people (the “Escapees”) and up to two significant others (people who had an insight into their journey out of homelessness including friends, family members and support workers).

We identified some initial themes which we took to three groups of people participating in the research, including Escapees, workers and friends. This process enabled us to dig deeper, develop the themes and bring the study to life. We then agreed on seven critical success factors for moving on from homelessness.

Click here for a copy.

Insight & Action

Our Insight & Action project is a radical grassroots approach to discovering and sharing insight into the health inequalities faced by people experiencing homelessness in London, and crucially to develop achievable solutions to reduce health inequalities for homeless people.

The project, funded by Trust for London, includes peer research in which volunteers with experience of homelessness are trained in research theory and practice and become co-researchers involved in all elements of the data-gathering process. Our peer researchers run focus groups and one-to-one survey-based interviews to better understand the health inequalities that homeless people face.

The Homeless People’s Commission

In 2011 a group of 14 former rough sleepers from across England produced The Homeless People’s Commission Policy Report after spending a year hearing evidence from policymakers, service providers and researchers. They presented their recommendations to improve policy to the Ministerial Working Group on Tackling Homelessness.

Homeless People’s Commission (HPC) sessions took place over seven residential events across the country where we used an adaptation of the Citizen’s Jury model to help us examine evidence, share experiences and develop recommendations.

More Than a Statistic

Two peer researchers explored the stories and experiences of healthcare from the perspective of people who are currently homeless across London.

The report aims to help inform commissioners about the priorities and issues that people with experience of homelessness have voiced. The views and experiences shared in this report also played a significant role in shaping our London Homeless Health Programme’s commissioning guidance for CCGs. The findings of the report are presented in chapters relating to different areas of healthcare delivery. Many of the topics highlighted and stories told do have cross-cutting themes that can apply to other areas of healthcare.