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. During the interviews with the server users, peer-researchers are involved in conducting the interview as the researchers acknowledged that besides scientific knowledge, knowledge by experience could add great value to come closer to the client’s subjective experience. The perspectives of peer-researchers make an important contribution to different stages of our research process. The collaboration between university researchers and peer-researchers is central to our research and both are aligned with specific roles in the research project.

Peer researchers & recruitment
Recruiting suitable peer-researchers is an important foundation for adopting a peer-research methodology. Therefore a couple of inclusion criteria are set: peer-researchers in our research have to have ‘lived experiences’ on either homelessness, mental health problems, addiction problems, or by the use of social support services. Also, peer-researchers were obligated to have followed a training or study in which they have learned to reflect on their own experiences and to use it in a professional context (such as the TOED  or Howie-the-Harp). With support of network- partners: municipalities, mental health care organizations and recovery-academia, we were able to recruit candidates that meet these criteria. The main motivation of the peer- researchers to engage in the research project, is to be able to contribute to policy development.

Training and research
During three training-sessions at the univerity, 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 openended questions, pinciples 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 procedures to be followed. During the interview process people with lived experience are involved during the development and validation of the topic lists, the recruitment of participants, the interviews, the creation of the research rapport and the research presentation.

Working closely together with experts by experience has great added-value for our research. They help us to enter the field, win trust of participants and help to  gather in-depth information during interviews by creating a relaxed and understanding environment and asking in-depth questions during the interviews. Moreover most have good analytical and critical skills which helps to lift the research to a higher level.

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.

Interested in working with us? Please feel free to send an email to: n.f.boesveldt@uva.nl