The search conference as a research strategy
How do we glean the evidence from the experience of practitioners in arts and health? Case stories are often dismissed as anecdotes not data. Yet the knowledge we get from experience and practice can be complex and richly nuanced in ways that no survey or structured interview will access.
Some researchers have suggested frameworks for reporting case studies that make it easier to compare and aggregate their evidence (Gibbon, Labonte and Laverack, 2002). Recently a group of us explored the way a search conference might be used as a collaborative research strategy for gathering and analysing the ideas of experienced practitioners, managers, policy makers and researchers in arts and health.
The search conference we ran in Bendigo, Australia, in November 2013 was set up to use dialogue in a process of exploration, understanding and action into what constitutes evidence in the arts and health field and how arts-based forms of evidence can contribute to these. Alongside the dialogue, we ran an arts-based process, a collaborative installation, as a parallel form of inquiry.
A narrative and analysis of this search conference and its findings can be found in the following articles:
Helen Varney, Bruce Rumbold and Alison Sampson (2014) Evidence in a different form: The search conference process, Journal of Applied Arts & Health 5:2
Patricia Fenner and Jan Allen (2014) The participatory installation: Forming the evidence of experience, Journal of Applied Arts & Health 5:2
Gibbon, M., Labonte, R. & Laverack, G. (2002), Evaluating community capacity, Health and Social Care in the Community, 10 (6), 485-491.