Opening up for Many Voices in Knowledge Construction
The key epistemological assumption in participatory research is the belief that knowledge is embedded in the lives and experiences of individuals and that knowledge is developed only through a cooperative process between researchers and experiencing individuals. There are various notions about the nature and processes of participation in this type of research. This paper focuses on specific processes that are used for a "genuine" participation by experiencing individuals as research participants. It also identifies processes that are critical for researchers to engage with, in order to become pro-participatory in their approaches to qualitative research. The paper draws on a particular project as an exemplar—"The Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Project." This project uses various participatory research processes to elicit and include voices of health-care professionals, service users, and family members. The main objective of the research project is to develop knowledge for new forms of community-based practices for people experiencing mental health crisis. We present the participatory research methodology applied in this research, and discuss two sets of processes used to enhance "participation" in research—one set to encourage and elicit participation by research participants; and the other set to engage researchers in reflection within the participatory research process. This will mitigate the paucity of literature regarding the processes and approaches necessary to make participatory research truly "participatory" both for research participants and researchers.