The research team approaches these guidelines more as a set of ideas and intuitions, some kind of toolkit, to best engage with both people on the move and practitioners, drawing on their religious or non-religious background as an ethical force.
Shared commitment to common principles
What the focus-groups discussions organized in Brussels revealed, indeed, is the shared commitment to common principles among practitioners, Ulrich Schmiedel remembers. He is Senior Lecturer in Theology, Politics and Ethics at the University of Edinburgh and head of AWoN research network.
– We asked the practitioners about ethical guidelines, and several practitioners said something along the lines of “We have guidelines, they are just not written anywhere”. There seems to be an implicit understanding, within A World of Neighbours, of what works and what doesn’t work, of what we want to do and what we don’t want to do. So, the task of this project is to make these implicit guidelines explicit, to write them down, to formulate them in a way that you can then actually have a conversation about them and say “Yes, everybody agrees with this” or “No, some of this we may need to work on”. Because only once it is explicit can you be critical of it and think it through.
Constant interaction enriches
That is one of the peculiar assets of the co-production of knowledge methodology the project relies on, which, involving practitioners from the design through the delivery to the dissemination of the research results, aims at benefitting them from the get-go.
– The content of the research very much comes down to what practitioners need, Ulrich emphasizes, noting how this constant interaction has enriched his own work vision of research as well.
– That’s really something I have learnt, for doing the work with A World of Neighbours, I have realized how important it is not to let researchers on their own, especially when it comes to topics such as migration which completely live from what’s happening on the ground. It really makes a difference to have everybody concerned at the table. If you actually do, it is often harder to make it work than you would have thought, it takes much more effort to organize it, but it’s also, at least for me, much more rewarding than I could ever have imagined.
Refreshing and helpful
– It’s interesting to see that reflexivity somehow is a space that really is lacking in the life of practitioners, Ryszard Bobrowicz, Phd in Practical Theology and a AWoN research fellow, confirms.
– Not in the sense that they do not reflect on their own practice but that they do not have space to do that. I realized that this was the first feedback that we received from these focus groups. People were very reluctant and they thought that this was some kind of an interruption in their work, but when the focus groups happened, they realized it was something very refreshing and helpful. This is one of the things I find most important in the work between researchers and practitioners. It creates a space for reflection for both sides. Practice is meeting reflection while reflection is meeting practice.