Re-imaging virtual field research during a global pandemic: Shifting methods – Part II

As you will recall, in Part I of the ‘Re-imagining virtual field research during a global pandemic’ blog (March 2021), we described the shifts in our data collection approaches to remote interaction and conducting virtual research due to the global pandemic, aligning with the Canadian Coalition for Global Health (CCGHR) Principles (2015).  This framework guides the integration of equity considerations in the mutual and reciprocal decision-making process for our global research practices (Plamondon & Bisung, 2019). We described the CCGHR principle of “authentic partnership” which focuses on the importance of ensuring that our actions and intentions are aligned around equitable research processes, relationships, and outcomes alongside our South African and Canadian partners for our Mothering & Albinism research project.

In this blog, Part II, we will continue to describe our mutually revised approach and methods to conducting remote virtual field work, aligning with two other CCGHR (2015) guiding principles. 

As a reminder, there are six equity-centred interrelated guiding principles: authentic partnering, inclusion, shared benefits, commitment to the future, responsiveness to causes of inequalities, and humility, with equity at the centre which is central to the goal and outcome of the process (CCGHR, 2015). “Each principle is meant to complement the others, working collectively to inform any approach to global health research” (p. 1).  In this blog, we address the CCGHR guiding principles, inclusion and shared benefits for best practices as we continue collecting data.

Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research (CCGHR) Principles for Global Health Research (2015).

The principle of “inclusion” focuses on addressing systemic exclusions that promote inequities in global health research.  An imperative for the principle of inclusion is more than having a seat at the table, but critical reflection upon what gives rise to the privilege of certain knowledge systems and the examination of mitigating power imbalances that are entrenched in sociopolitical histories of colonization, and ensuring cultural safety (CCGHR, 2015).  Throughout the data collection phase of our study, ongoing weekly communication has occurred between the South African and Canadian partners to ensure the process for scheduling interviews with our participants (mothers impacted by albinism and key stakeholders in South Africa) accommodated the needs for both research partners and the participants. Specifically, related to the participants, our South African partners facilitated meeting with them in a brief video call prior to the interview to explain the process between the South African Cultural Liaison (SACL), the South African Community Research Coordinator (CRC), and the Canadian Project Coordinator (CPC) and Research Assistant conducting the interviews alongside them. Specifically, these onsite relationships were essential to ensure that the participants were clearly included and understood the process for conducting and scheduling the interviews at mutually agreed upon times for all involved. In addition, the SACL was essential in bridging and contextualizing where the interviews were being conducted. The female CL assisted with conducting the interviews, as well as was necessary for her knowledge of albinism and understanding the language spoken by many of the participants (mothers). The importance of ongoing conversations about how to mitigate power and privilege (Nixon, 2017), including North/South and researcher/participant power dynamics, has been an ongoing open discussion between the South African and Canadian partners. This conversation has continued throughout the global pandemic, revealing the importance for clearly acknowledging the realities and shifts that have had to be made in collecting data in South Africa virtually. Specifically, illuminating other safety concerns of our participants which required in-depth conversations with our South African partners to place our participants’ well-being as the most important element – and consequently making shifts in our data collection process that would not have been possible without the inclusion of our South African partners. 

The principle of “shared benefits” asks the question: Who benefits and how? The focus of this principle is for the research team to create and identify equitable distribution of benefits specifically around reciprocity for all partners. This sharing of benefits can include a myriad of examples, such as, collaborative presentations and publications, data ownership, access to post-study products; and capacity building and training.

Emma Strobell (L) and Innocentia Mgijima-Konopi (R) at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa, 2019.

With this principle, we describe how we openly engaged in conversations around shared decision making, and access to resources during the data collection process related to equity centered research practices.

During our South African and Canadian research meetings we have had ongoing consultation discussing various aspects of the research process from benefits for the: participants of the study; South African and Canadian Researchers in data analysis; publications and presenting at national/international conferences; and other challenges that arose during the process that required further clarification. In terms of benefits of this research for the participants, for example, our Northern Cape Community Research Coordinator, Mpho Tjope, Founder & Director of Albinism Advocacy for Access, has found that by explaining to the participants the bigger picture of the research by initially providing them with documents and information about the stipend for the stakeholders and mothers beforehand diminishes any potential issues. Next the benefits of ongoing shared data analysis between the South African and Canadian partners resulted in the elicitation of an increased understanding and acknowledgement of the contextual nature of the voices of the participants and Indigenous knowledges of the project between our two countries  moving  toward a storytelling style particular to the South African context. This led us to ongoing conversations about our decolonizing methodologies including an emphasis on the decolonizing gender and disability lens. As well, the implementation of another partnership framework, the South-South and Triangular Cooperation alongside the CCGHR principles. We have been intentional in discussing – collaboratively – publications from the results of our project to ensure that authorship is equitable. To date, we have shared in the writing of blogs (including this one); two publications (Reimer-Kirkham, et al.); and an upcoming presentation at a global conference about our South African and Canadian partnership (Astle & Mgijima-Konopi et al., 2021).

As this international research partnership continues during a global pandemic, we acknowledge the importance for ongoing dialogue and consultation about equity-centred research.

References:

Astle, B., Mgijima-Konopi, I., Buyco, M., De Waal, M., Ero, I., Kromberg, J., Mazibuko, N., Mogale, S., Msipa, D., Reimer-Kirkham, S., Strobell, E., Thabethe, M., Tjope, M. (November 24 – 26th, 2021 [Virtual]). Applying a decolonizing lens to a South Africa-Canada intersectoral partnership on mothering and albinism during the global pandemic. 27th Canadian Conference on Global Health/ Conférence Canadienne sur la santé mondiale. Ottawa & Virtual, Canada.

Canadian Coalition for Global Health Researchers (CCGHR) (2015). CCGHR Principles for Global Health Research https://www.ccghr.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CCGHR-Principles-for-GHR-FINAL.pdf

Lupton, D. (2020). Doing fieldwork in a pandemic (crowd-sourced document). Available at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1clGjGABB2h2qbduTgfqribHmog9B6P0NvMgVuiHZCl8/edit?ts=5e88ae0a#

Nixon, S.A. (2017). Privilege 101: Power, privilege and oppression in the context of health equity. University of Toronto, Department of Physical Therapy, Toronto. ON.

Plamondon, K., & Bisung, E. (2019). The CCGHR Principles for Global Health Research: Centering equity in research, knowledge translation, and practice. Social Science & Medicine, 239 (112530).

Reimer-Kirkham, S., Ero, I., Mgijima-Konopi, I., Strobell, E., & Astle, B. (2021 – accepted). Mothering and albinism: Recommendations for disability rights in Africa. African Disability Rights Yearbook. Centre for Human Rights University of Pretoria.

Sing, N.S., Lokot, M., Undie, C., Onyango, M.S., Morgan, R. et al. (2021). Research in forced displacement: Guidance for a feminist and decolonial approach. The Lancet, 397, P560-62.

World Health Organization (WHO) (March 11, 2020). WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 11 March 2020 https://www.who.int/director-general/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19—11-march-2020

Blog written by:

Dr. Barbara Astle, Project Co-Lead
Innocentia Mgijima-Konopi, LLM, Atlantic Fellow for Health Equity at Tekano
Emma Strobell, MSN, Project Coordinator

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