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Human Development &
Capability Association

Multi-Disciplinary and People-Centred

HDCA Webinar: Rethinking Participatory Research in the Pandemic Era

Organised by HDCA Thematic Group on Participatory Methods 

Date and time:

15th July / 10.30-12.00 ITA (CET)

Panelists: Alex A. Frediani, University College London, and Melanie Walker, University of the Free State

The Coronavirus pandemic has affected the lives and livelihoods across the world and disrupted the ways in which we experience our capabilities everyday. There is a new normal emerging in all spheres of life as we endeavour on one hand to save ourselves from COVID-19, and, on the other hand, engage ourselves in activities that are both necessary and meaningful for our existence and flourishing as human beings.

In these times of the pandemic, for us as academics, researchers and practitioners who are carrying out our work using participatory approaches, the lockdowns, restrictions on travel, connectivity problems, and the declining availability of stakeholders has serious implications for the quality and the validity of the participatory inquiries and outcomes of our projects.

Through this discussion, we wish to create a collective learning space to come out with options and alternatives that could be adopted to stay true to the principles and processes of participatory research in the pandemic era. What are the frameworks within the capability approach that enable us to understand the present crisis through participatory research? What have been the lived experiences of the researchers in taking forward their participatory work? Is there scope for methodological negotiations and alternatives that could be recommended for participatory researchers to be able to do justice to their research agenda and objectives?


10:30 - Introduction by TG Coordinators (Carmen, Kanchan and Andrea)

10:40 - Panellists:   Prof. Alex A. Frediani  (UCL, UK)

Prof. Melanie Walker (UFS, South Africa)

11:40 - Collective learning space: Open discussion for all participants on challenges and solutions to apply participatory research during the pandemic



Special Panellists:


Alexandre Apsan Frediani is an Associate Professor at the Bartlett Development Planning Unit of University College London. His area of work focuses on issues around human development in cities of the global South, particularly by exploring approaches to participatory planning and design in informal settlement upgrading initiatives. He has also been conducting research and development projects focusing on the role of knowledge production and translation in advancing a more socially and environmentally just urban development. Alex has been one of the founding members of the Thematic Group on Participatory Methods of the Human Development and Capability association. In his most recent research initiatives, Alex is a co-investigator for the research projects Knowledge in Action for Urban Equality and Transforming Universities for a Changing Climate.


Professor Melanie Walker holds a PhD from the University of Cape Town and is an A-rated NRF scientist. Her research on and in South Africa is concerned conceptually, empirically and practically with social justice in higher education and society, drawing on education, sociology, philosophy and development studies, working especially with human development and Amartya Sen’s capability approach (CA), as well as Martha Nussbaum’s ‘capabilities approach’. She has held the South African Research Chair in Higher Education & Human Development at the University of the Free State since 2013. Here she directs a vibrant group of early career researchers and supervises doctoral students, building together an impressive body of capabilities-facing scholarship. This includes nine single authored monographs by past PhD students in the last few years. She has published over 200 books, book chapters and articles and presented keynotes and conference papers in the UK, Europe, Australia, USA, Canada, Latin America, Taiwan, South Korea, and South Africa.   Her latest book edited with Alejandra Boni is Participatory research, capabilities and epistemic justice. A transformative agenda for higher education and will be published by Palgrave in early 2021.

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