Explore, engage, empower: methodological insights into a transformative mixed methods study tackling the COVID-19 lockdown

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  • Livia Fritz
  • Ulli Vilsmaier
  • Garance Clement
  • Laurie Daffe
  • Anna Pagani
  • Melissa Pang
  • Daniel Gatica-Perez
  • Vincent Kaufmann
  • Marie Santiago Delefosse
  • Claudia R. Binder
Action-oriented, transformative, and transdisciplinary approaches are increasingly heralded as promising tools that enable researchers not only to produce new knowledge about a situation, but also to actively engage in tackling it; however, such approaches raise critical questions about the methodological implications and conflicts involved in pursuing multiple objectives concurrently. This article seeks to advance this debate by examining the methodological implications of pursuing both knowledge production-oriented (epistemic) and action-oriented (transformative) objectives in urgent and uncertain situations. It asks how far a transformative mixed methods research design can leverage the potential of research to achieve multiple objectives in times of crisis. This methodological inquiry is based on a transformative mixed methods study on housing conditions and well-being which was initiated during the first COVID-19 lockdown in Switzerland. The study was composed of a country-wide survey, mobile crowdsourcing, interviews and Citizen Think Tanks. The results of this methodological reflection illustrate how this research design made it possible to (i) explore the effects of the crisis on domestic living spaces, (ii) engage with the crisis in a joint research space, and (iii) stimulate empowerment through reflection and mutual learning. These insights suggest the multidimensional orientation of the transformative mixed methods approach is appropriate for acting upon urgent crises. However, it challenges core methodological values and research constellations including (i) tackling unequal engagement opportunities, (ii) navigating social and epistemic control, and (iii) paying attention to situatedness and positionality. The article concludes that, in anticipation of future crises, favorable conditions for multi-targeted, collaborative research need to be fostered, both on the institutional and on personal levels. These conditions should enable fast and adequate team formation, as well as reflection and negotiation of positionalities, and divergent interests and objectives, of both scientists and citizens.
Original languageEnglish
Article number175
JournalHumanities & social sciences communications
Issue number1
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 12.2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank all citizens who contributed to the Swiss Corona Citizen Science project. We also thank Philip Abbet and Olivier Bornet (Idiap Research Institute) for their support with mobile data collection and curation as well as the PhD students of the EPFL course “Scenario Development and Analysis” who were involved in implementing the Citizen Think Tanks.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).