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Accepted Contribution:

Community epistemic power: reframing ethical research in informal settlements  
Alice Menya (Nuvoni Centre for Innovation Research) Beatrice Hati (International institute for social studies (ISS) Jan Fransen (Erasmus University Rotterdam) Caroline Archambault (Leiden University College) Stephen Nyagaya (Nuvoni Centre for Innovation Research)

Contribution short abstract:

Community-based research in informal settlements raises ethical concerns about exploitation and wasteful research. This paper spotlights an emancipatory co-creation process of reframing ethical research in marginalized communities to discourage extractive research practices and research waste.

Contribution long abstract:

Urban informal settlements are sites of advanced marginality owing to high levels of impoverishment, deplorable living conditions, multiple precarities, and sustainability challenges. They have increasingly drawn substantial research attention, which is yet to yield commensurate impact. This has raised critical ethical concerns about how they are over-researched, with little to no apparent physical and socio-economic transformation. Typically, ‘scientific’ researchers enter these spaces with predetermined research agenda, extract knowledge and depart, with little to no reciprocal value to the communities, who remain feeling fatigued, exploited, misrepresented, and disgruntled by pervasive failure of research translation into positive development outcomes.

Community based participatory research approaches have been hailed for democratizing research and arguably redressing unethical community research practices. On the contrary, these models are rather tokenistic and fall short of deconstructing knowledge hierarchies prevalent in scientific research. The ensuing knowledge dispossession has perpetuated community patronization by dominant theoretical and empirical authority wielded by scientific researchers. Communities are thus frequently relegated to supporting research roles with minimal to no interactions with research findings and much lesser input in research uptake.

This paper spotlights community agency in heavily researched Mathare informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. Through a series of co-creation workshops, the community under the banner Mathare Special Planning Area Research Collective (MSPARC), has collaborated with researchers from Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities to co-develop guidelines for ethical research in the community. Dubbed the ‘ten commandments’, these guidelines reflect pressing community concerns, which have triggered collective advocacy for symbiotic research engagement amidst ethical ambiguities in community-based research practices.

Workshop PE02
Community knowledge in academic research: in pursuit of epistemic justice
  Session 1 Thursday 27 June, 2024, -