Executing research together with trained people with lived experience
Our current research-project is a longitudinal five year-long study aimed at examining the Dutch extramural social care policies of clients in social welfare and sheltered housing. During these five years server users, governmental and non- governmental stakeholders involved in social policy creation and implementation, are interviewed. Interviews are conducted by both researchers and peer-researchers, allowing for a combination of scientific and experience-based knowledge. This later knowledge is better equipped at understanding clients’ subjective experiences and plays an important role in creating an environment that is safe and propitious to sharing. Indeed, peer researchers provide, more often than not, an entryway into a specific field or target group, contribute to building relationships of trust with participants, and are elemental in gathering in-depth information as well as offering critical analyses which ultimately elevates the research. In this sense, the perspectives of peer-researchers make an important contribution to the different stages of our research process. Collaboration between academic researchers and peer-researchers is central to our research project and bot hare aligned with specific roles in the research project. 

Peer researchers & recruitment
When adopting peer-research methodology, it is crucial to recruit suitable peer-researchers. In this sense, peer-researchers in our research must have ‘lived experiences with regard to homelessness, mental health problems, addiction problems, or use of social support services. Together with this, peer-researchers have undergone training (such as the TOED or Howie-the-Harp) that provides them with the adequate tools and skills to not only help them reflect on their own experiences but also understand who to use them appropriately in a professional context. With the support of network partners: municipalities, mental health care organizations, and recovery-academia, we were able to recruit candidates that meet these criteria. Peer-researchers’ willingness to engage in the research project is heavily influenced by the ability to contribute to policy development. 

Training and research
During three training-sessions at the university, three pools of experts by experience are trained by academic professionals and an external trainer specialized in peer-research to become peer-researchers. This training is focused both on building skills (know-how) and reflection (know-why). The main objectives of the training are learning research principles (e.g. asking open-ended questions, principles of objectivity), collaborating as duo-researchers, practicing interviews and getting familiar with the interview guide. Furthermore considerable attention is paid to the ethical procedures, and their practical implications for the research method be followed. Peer-researchers are involved during the development and validation of the topic lists, the recruitment of participants, the interviews, the creation of the research report and the research presentation.

Want to know more about the way we execute this peer-to-peer method?
During the next couple of months we will be working on a paper on our peer-to-peer method in research. A link to the article will be published as soon as the article is ready.

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