In conversation with...:co-designing with more-than-human communities


Principal Investigator: Dr Michelle Bastian; University of Edinburgh
Co-investigators: Prof Richard Coles, Birmingham City University; Professor Owain Jones, Bath Spa University; Dr Phil Jones, University of Birmingham; Dr Carla Mancini, Open University
Collaborators: Evesham Beekeepers; Dogs for the Disabled; Vale Heritage Landscape Trust; Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; North Devon Biosphere Reserve; Devon Wildlife Trust; Collins and Goto Studio; Antony Lyons
Duration: From 2013 to 2014

The aim of this project is to explore how an expanded account of community – one which recognises the active participation of non-humans – might contribute to our understandings of how research can be co-designed and co-produced. It arises from a concern that ‘community’ has too often been thought of as only including the human, thus leaving out the wide range of interactions with non-humans that sustain and enhance our communities. Literature on coproduction emphasises the benefits of attempting to integrate a wide range of perspectives and experiences, arguing that this makes stronger research that is of more benefit to those the research affects. However, while there is some evidence that proponents of participatory research have begun to recognise a need to extend the paradigm beyond the human communities it has focused on, this has not yet occurred. As a result, this project will initiate an exploration into the possibilities of co-designing research with more-than-human communities. We will stage four ‘conversations’ with non-human actors and the humans who work with them. We will explore issues to do with power, voice and agency and will seek to test the boundaries of ‘polite conversation’ by working with dogs, bees, trees and water.