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2020 Researcher Led Initiatives

In 2020 we had 36 applicants to the RLI awards, we successfully awarded 15 initiatives. We would like to thank all those who applied and for those that attended any of the successful initiatives. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the initiatives had to move online or were unable to run. 

Click here for this year's Researcher Led Initiative awards.

Award holder: Diana Duarte

The Avocado Dialogues was designed as an interdisciplinary initiative from the beginning, resulting from ideas to move forward upon an identified training gap on participatory methodologies in our HE local context. As Latin American PGRs who found in the Exeter Centre for Studies of Latin America and the Caribbean EXCELAS a proper niche to develop these ideas, the invitation extended by the Centre of Archaeology for the Americas CAA was a wonderful opportunity to organise our own training following a legacy on participatory methodologies originating on the advances by Latin American scholars we admire, such as Paulo Freire and Orlando Fals Borda. Coming from Archaeology, History and Anthropology, three of us assumed this task as a contribution from Latin American research practices but that could be applied in the so-called “other souths” or “from below” by decolonial scholars: involving neglected actors and communities anywhere.

We understood that the workshop needed a participatory methodology itself, using a decolonial and participatory approach to the best of our possibilities; considering the example and the “un-written”, “implicit” message as important as (or perhaps more than) the content, to inspire and feed the seed of skills for participatory research in each and every one of us. As such, the workshop was conceived to be coherent and consequent with the participatory purpose, and the presence of a civil community member who had experience as active agent and researcher in an internationally recognised investigation was fundamental. This implied a planned semi-virtual event and added from the beginning a series of unknowns within our budget, regarding the logistics we needed to put in place to have someone from a remote rural area participating.

On top of things, the coronacrisis spread globally, changing entirely the scenarios for academic encounters and people’s mobility, including our key-note speakers. The uncertainties increased, it was crucial to migrate to a completely virtual format. However, the peasant leader still needed to commute from a remote area to a semi-urban safe place and we needed to grant all sort of security measurements to make this possible in a zone that progressively became more insecure, not entirely due to the virus, but to the local conflict and high risk of our guest. Therefore, we ourselves had to face one of the common challenges of participatory approaches: the negotiations with the community. This took months, as well as the local logistics organisation and securing the funding in a way that they felt comfortable, safe and happy with the work.  In the middle of this crisis one of us got the virus, and another one had to return to her home country and later on leave the organising committee.

In spite of the difficulties, we managed to complete a full transition to virtuality. One of the community demands, that we failed to contemplate from the beginning within our design and our budget, was the possibility to participate of the whole event, not just the panel where they were invited, and with full inclusivity. This required interpreters for the whole event, and our budget for translation was very limited. Sadly, we could not make the connections with the translation studies professionals and students here in the Uni. Fortunately, the Humanities College, who was also sponsoring the workshop, agreed on paying for the interpretation, but as much as we used no more than the amount already allocated to us; and simultaneous interpretation is expensive. Eventually, we managed to contact very last minute a solidarity group of interpreters in the US who charged us a special fee. On regards to the logistics to grant security, connectivity and inclusivity to the peasant leader, the transition to virtuality turned to be an opportunity, liberating resources that we could allocate in fulfilling one of the main goals of this workshop: teach by example.

All this effort paid generously, as any “act of care” usually does. The Decolonial Work Group in the History department helped us promoting the event, as well as EXCELAS, CAA and its conference SAAME. The online campaign strategy was also quite effective, and in the end, we achieved a registration up to 88 people (see Appendix 4).  We had a very good turnout and a general feeling of satisfaction in terms of interaction, involvement and learnings. The Exchange of participatory experience from the southern corner of Argentina, through the Colombian Caribbean, through the United Kingdom and reaching Africa and India, was highly appreciated by both the audience and the speakers’ group. It was a truly memorable educational experience for all of us.

Award holder: Jennifer Finlay

Kegs of Knowledge (Kegs) was an initiative developed by Jennifer Finlay (Biosciences) and Callum Downes (Philosophy). Kegs aimed to provide an inclusive opportunity for all PGR students to develop their public speaking and research communication skills, as well as including an important, and often forgotten stakeholder- the public- in their research. To capture as many members of the public as possible, we chose to host Kegs at the pub- a staple of British culture.

There are many opportunities for STEM researchers to discuss their research with the public (e.g. Pint of Science, Café Scientifique, Soapbox Science), however, researchers from other disciplines do not have the same opportunities. Kegs encouraged any and all PGR students to get involved, whether they wanted to present their research, run or attend a workshop, or support their friends and colleagues.

The first (and only event) took part in February at Henry’s bar, Exeter; we had approximately 40 attendees in total, which included the public, UG and PG students. Three speakers spoke and here two of them summarise their experience:

Josh (2nd year PhD student, Classics): “Kegs was an incredibly welcoming environment for my first public speaking engagement. It’s a great opportunity for any PGR student.”

Rebekah (3rd year PhD student, Biosciences): "Kegs provided valuable advice to improve my public speaking skills and a wonderfully supportive environment for me to gain confidence in discussing my research with the public."