Ways of being and doing: Reflections on researching together


Jean's collageI’ve been working with the Covid Realities, now Changing Realities research project to support zine-making since late 2020.

For me, and my involvement as an artist, the projects have been a beacon of good practice, in their ways of working, values and ethos.

Although I have been facilitating zine making with groups and communities for years, when I joined Covid Realities I hadn’t made a collective zine with people online before. I was asked to support a collective zine with participants to explore their experiences of life through the pandemic and what needed to change. I had to find new ways of working – from providing the right zine making materials through the post, to figuring out how to hold space online for people to be creative together, and make decisions together democratically and inclusively about how they wanted the zine to be.

Could this be done? How would it all work?

I had a lot of questions and uncertainty, but I quickly discovered that I wouldn’t be figuring it out alone.

I worked in close collaboration with the research team to figure out the best processes. Katie Pybus, in particular, helped so much with supporting the facilitation of the online workshops, as well as dealing with the logistics of getting zine packs to people, and organising communications.

I also worked with Tom Flannery, a graphic and web designer working with the project, who brought his magic design eye to give the zine its really cohesive visual identity. You can read the zine here.

At the heart of Covid Realities there was a feeling and attitude that we are all learning and doing together. Embedded into everything was an active commitment to centreing the voices of participants – checking in with people time and time again – with an attitude of care, honesty, compassion, and often humour.

Whether this is about making a change, large or small, to a way of doing something, asking ourselves questions, or stopping to reflect – it was woven throughout.

I am really grateful for the experience of working with both projects. I have learned so much, particularly from participants, who were so open in sharing their creativity in the midst of the most difficult of circumstances, and also in giving me feedback about what could work better in the future.

This year I supported the making of two further zines, ‘Reflections on our Participatory Research’ and ‘Doing It Together: An (un) guide to making zines with people’

‘Reflections on our Participatory Research’ is a collective zine made with participants, researchers and close colleagues about the approaches of working together on Covid Realities. We made the zine online together as a creative way of reflecting on our experiences. You can read it here.

‘Doing It Together: An (un) guide to making zines with people’ shares our learnings about using zine-making as part of the Covid Realities research. It includes reflections and insights from participants and researchers from the project as other zine makers who we have learned from. You can read it here.

Limited print copies of both zines are available. If you are interested in a print copy of either of them, email me at Jeanmariemcewan@gmail.com with a line about how/why it would be useful to you, your project, group or organisation.