The Together Study is all about valuing life experience just as much as the opinions of experts. This study, running until March 2024, aims to work out how effective Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities (SFSC) is—a parenting programme run by the Race Equality Foundation in the UK.
The Together Study received funding to do a randomised control trial and interviews with parents who have participated in SFSC, as well as with local council commissioners and programme facilitators. As part of the project, researchers have been giving parents questionnaires to see how SFSC affects them personally, their relationships, and their communities. We’ve been collecting data from parents for over a year to compare the responses of those who plan to take SFSC in the future with those who have already completed the programme. This way, we can see if SFSC is really working.
A lot of the academic research that comes from studies like this usually relies on theories that have been around for ages. But research on the research process itself has shown that in the past, public funds haven’t always been used wisely. Many participants—the very people the research is supposed to benefit—have disagreed with a lot of the findings. This has caused what experts in the field call “scientific controversies” and has contributed to the rise of the post-truth world, where the general public’s opinions are often given more weight than those of experts. The funding organisations have finally realised this and now demand that all projects include public involvement. The goal is to have the public either validate or invalidate the research. Lately, there’s also been a push for “co-produced” research, where all the people involved in the study come together to discuss the issues from their different perspectives and reach conclusions that everyone can agree on.
For the Together Study, the Parent Advisory Group has been the public involvement arm of the trial. Researchers from the Race Equality Foundation have been running workshops with these parents to make sure their voices are heard throughout the process. Recently, we have organised workshops aimed at addressing biases in the academic process. We held focus groups where parents who went through the SFSC program shared their experiences and how they related to the research questions. By identifying the important themes raised by the parents, we can analyse the data more effectively.
The data collection phase of the randomised control trial is almost done, thanks to the recommendations made by the parents themselves. They provided insights based on the research questions of the study, and we plan to use these recommendations to fine-tune their analysis. We want to connect the knowledge that comes from people’s lived experiences to the analysis of the questionnaires. In addition to this, we’re also conducting evaluation interviews with programme commissioners, parents who recently completed SFSC, and facilitators. We want to know what works, what doesn’t, and whether the programme should be more widely available to parents—and most importantly, why. By bringing together different perspectives, we hope to gain a deeper understanding of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of SFSC. Ultimately, we want to organise a workshop where everyone can discuss and build upon the insights gained from these interviews and initial workshops with young people. Funding bodies now want knowledge production to involve multiple stakeholders, and this study is taking a step in that direction.
For more information about the Together Study contact Trupti Patel: firstname.lastname@example.org