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Understanding and modelling the effects of a shared-values approach which contribute towards an enhanced group voice in an international development context

Project Description

This PhD project will focus on the process known as WeValue InSitu, which has been developed by Professor Harder’s groups at the University of Brighton and Fudan University, China. The process was developed originally from a social design starting point (using research-through-design approaches) asking what approach was needed to allow social groups to articulate their shared values more clearly, for better communication and monitoring. It has proven to be very effective in many domains, including sustainability, environmental management, adaptation planning, team building, education. When local groups are facilitated through a workshop scaffolding process to crystallise, articulate and frame their shared values, the results can include increased voice, confidence, clarity of vision, team meshing.

This PhD project will focus on understanding the underlying mechanisms of learning, or knowledge creation, within the process, which are responsible for its desired effects. Current modelling is being developed via the Personal Knowledge Theory of Polanyi, and the SECI model of Nonaka, but other models and hybrid models are possible and students will be given some leeway in deciding ways forward, once they have achieved basic competency in the practice. A further approach could be via applied philosophy: mapping methods which might ‘test’ different paradigm interpretations.

The PhD work, regardless of its exact focus, will require considerable data collected from series of WeValue InSitu sessions with real participants. These will be obtained via the main research landscape for this PhD project: the University of Brighton’s involvement in the new UKRI GCRF ‘Action against Stunting Hub’ which will transform the exploration of child under-nutrition from component parts to focusing on the ’whole child’. It is one of 12 new Global Research Hubs funded by UKRI through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) - which is a key component in delivering the UK AID strategy and puts UK-led research at the heart of efforts to tackle the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This Hub will bring a change of emphasis by focusing on examining, via interconnections of shared values, the relationship between the known biological, social, environmental and behavioural drivers of stunting. Over the five-year collaboration the Hub will aim to reduce child stunting by up to 10% across specific communities in India, Indonesia and Senegal.

The Hub work covered involves a novel approach by the University of Brighton called the WeValue In-situ Shared Values Elicitation approach, which facilitates groups to elicit and make explicit their local shared values. This will allow three things: for those values to be explicitly considered when health interventions are designed by the Hub; as a lens through which local groups can identify subtle cultural issues linked to stunting; and for evaluation of the proposed or carried out interventions from a local perspective. A further strand of the work will be used to assist the diverse researchers in the Hub to understand each other’s values better, and thus work together more effectively – i.e. as a Hub management mechanism.

The WeValue In-Situ Shared Values Elicitation approach is based on action research and has been demonstrated to assist in facilitating wide, broad and deep participation. It has been used to provide a lens to identify otherwise intangible project legacies from the perspective of local groups and its ‘scaffolding’ approach has been shown to be transferable across cultures and languages via talented local community workers. It has been shown to bring the ‘missing pillar’ of values/ culture in sustainability into the realm of measurement, including for measures towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to be useful in behavioural intervention design via the closing of ‘value-action gaps’. Its usefulness for consortia, as opposed to groups with historical shared values, has been established.

In this work, the WeValue In-Situ Shared Values Elicitation approach will be used with existing local groups in India, Senegal and Indonesia in areas where other facets of child stunting studies of the Hub will be taking place. Linked to the core approach of first identifying and making explicit local shared values, the additional approach using that values lens immediately afterwards to view a specific issue – such as childcare, or education, or cultural attitudes towards food – will be used to explore potentially relevant themes. Later in the program, groups will be asked to use their values lens to view and critique proposed interventions drafted by the Hub researchers. And finally, towards the end of the project, groups will be asked to use their values lens to evaluate the impacts or legacies of the Hub’s work on their communities.

Funding Notes

This is a three-year, full-time position, funded by the University of Brighton starting in March 2020. The funding will cover the university fees, and a PhD stipend at the UKRI rate, £15,009 pa for 2019/20.
Open for applicants with Home or EU residency only.

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