At One Future Collective, our research and advocacy are based on an intersectional feminist, people-centered ethic, aimed at propelling action and power with communities. Decolonising and critically examining our research process, and carefully organising our safeguarding practices are therefore crucial elements of our work on social justice through action research.
Our founder and CEO, Vandita Morarka, was a panelist on two themes for a three-day webinar series on Feminist Research, hosted by ActionAid International, from September 5 to September 7, 2023. Vandita was a part of the following two panels:
Feminist Research as Politics and Power: Shifting Power, Intersectionality, and Decolonisation in Research (watch here); and
Feminist Research in Practice: Methodologies, Safeguarding and Wellbeing (watch here).
To learn more about the specific objectives of each panel, and to get to know the panelists alongside Vandita, visit here.
Each panel of this series discussed various elements of the feminist research process, from its politics and practice, to its potential to transform narratives and drive change in policy and advocacy. Read below to learn about our key lessons from this series.
Panelist Renata Saavedra highlighted the importance of pluriversal thinking as a key process for feminist research and development. They talked about the need to unlearn hierarchies and dichotomies of logic that sustain colonial logics that are modern, universal, and separated in their understanding of what is considered knowledge. They stressed that we must, as a decolonial practice, learn freely from, and in relation to, each other, because there is no single way of reading and relating to the world. Panelist Cecilia Cordova added that it is essential for feminist research to challenge homogenizing views of the communities we work with.
In describing positionality, Renata also describes the idea of ‘place of speech’, or the varying social conditions that prevent or allow people’s access to citizenship. Introduced by author Patricia Hill Collins, stand-point-theory was also extensively discussed. Feminist research undertaken with an understanding of positionality and power, the panelists urged, challenges the reproduction of “corporate, politically neutral and morally grey” research and development agendas, and pushes people to identify their own stakes and positions within the process. It considers and manages power relations within research contexts. Panelist Nimisire Emitomo Tobi illustrated that intervention programs that address power dynamics and gender relations are more effective and equitable in their outcomes, than those which do not.
Through the example of co-inquiry research around silicosis in Rajasthan, and that of communally held knowledge of textiles, Vandita underlined the importance of developing alternative and transformative models of the authorship, ownership and sharing of knowledge. They also shared how young researchers are “building in public” – with accountability, inviting suggestions, showing failures, by treating research as a live, participatory process.
4. Proactive safeguarding
Panelist Ashlee Burnett initiated the conversation on safeguarding in the research process by encouraging researchers and funders to examine their role in the research process and what they owe to the people and communities they work with. They proposed flexible funding and budgetary inclusion of the expenses associated with safeguarding processes as important steps for funders towards ensuring safety and dignity to those involved in research. Vandita discussed the different ways in which different people experience risk based on systemic factors, and why this understanding of the uneven impact of similar risks on different populations is important to the risk forecasting and mitigation processes. To prevent harmdoing, they shared the process of identifying stakeholders, assessing how they will experience risk, evaluating possibility and impact, and managing it in advance as possible. Panelist Trimita Chakma also stressed the importance of freely given, reversible, informed and specific consent for prolonged research processes as a central safeguarding measure.
5. People over process
Trimita and Cecilia led the conversation on examining our research processes in a way which prioritises the needs and experiences of the communities we work with, over outdated and bureaucratic processes. While they agreed that some of these tools are important to evaluate research impact and ensure accountability, Trimita emphasized the importance of developing evaluation and accountability tools and languages which are tailored to the communities we work with. This, many panelists agreed, is an important aspect to reflect on as we undertake feminist research through a decolonial, intersectional lens.
What are your key learnings about the politics and power of feminist research?
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