Rochdale Community Champions – Using Animation for Participatory Research in the Community.

Here is a guest blog post by Katy Goldstraw (Phd student and lecturer at MMU and lecturer at Edge Hill university)

Animation is a great fun way of getting your message across. What has struck me is that it captures people imaginations much more than being asked to present research in reports or presentations. I was asked to co-deliver leadership and research training as part of a partnership between Rochdale Community Champions and Edge Hill University. Rochdale Community Champions are a group of volunteers that deliver solution focused, person centred support on a peer-to-peer basis with their community. John and I, working at Edge Hill University, were asked to come and deliver leadership and research training with the champions. We were keen to use training techniques that were accessible, innovative and enabling. Having attended one of Jenny Fisher’s animation training sessions we felt that animation was a great way of sharing research outcomes and intentions.

The leadership and research training was delivered over 4 days with the two fold aim of creating a short animation by day four, as a stepping stone into a longer term participatory research project. The animation was to be focussed around what being a volunteer meant to the champions.
The volunteers loved the idea, we loved the idea – BUT how do we get circa fifteen peoples idea into one animation in four days? Well we did lots of shared discussion, que post it notes & flip chart about how people felt, what they wanted to research and how the animation should look. By day three, we were ready to create the PowToon. I chose PowToon mostly because it seems to me the simplest of tools and similar enough to PowerPoint that I could understand it.

We sat in a U shape and tried to whittle down the pages of notes about what was important about being a Rochdale Community Champion into three sentences. A game of ‘word popcorn’ helped. I had the computer and everything I uploaded was projected up onto the big screen. We created a short five-minute cartoon with the major messages the group wished to share. We chose to create one shared animation, as there was a significant diversity of IT skills and literacy within the room. This way everyone’s voice was heard.

As with all participation, the project was full of ideas and discussion. It was not without conflict with different group members wishing different things to be represented. Trying to create the animation ‘live’ when I have what can only be described as limited skills was hard. I created a draft by the end of day three and then went home and worked on the cartoon to improve the animation. The second draft was then shared with volunteers on day four.
Overall, the process felt very democratic and feedback from volunteers was positive – they really engaged with the idea of representing the community champions in a short and innovative way.

If I were advising others, to include animation in a community research project I would recommend a shared animation and using the ‘first draft’ and they time out to perfect. I found it all quite high pressure being watched by fifteen people whilst a learner myself. However, within that I was pleased that I was able to model a new idea and the very important message that we as a group could create an animation collaboratively.

For more info on the Rochdale Community Champs Project http://www.edgehill.ac.uk/i4p/i4p-publications/

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