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Unger, Hella von ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7071-1359; Huber, Anna; Kühner, Angela; Odukoya, Dennis ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2086-0983 and Reiter, Herwig (2022): Reflection Labs: A Space for Researcher Reflexivity in Participatory Collaborations. In: International Journal of Qualitative Methods, Vol. 21 [PDF, 920kB]


This paper introduces reflection labs as a tool for researcher reflexivity in participatory collaborations. Participatory methodologies intend to achieve equal partnerships, co-production of knowledge and empowerment processes. In this agenda, reflexivity is key, not only for analytical reasons but also to address power inequalities, challenges in the partnerships and other ethical questions. In this paper, we describe the methodological underpinnings and empirical use of a tool we call a ‘reflection lab’. In a 3-year participatory study with refugees (EMPOW), funded by the German Research Foundation, various online and offline spaces were created for reflexivity among community and academic partners. Reflection labs were developed for the academic partners. The term ‘lab’ points to the somewhat experimental nature of this space. Combining different approaches to reflexivity in creative ways, reflection labs offer a space to explore researcher subjectivities. Using field notes, minutes and analytical notes (‘memos’) as a starting point, in-depth discussions foster critical self-reflexivity and provide peer feedback and support about academic researchers’ roles in participatory collaborations. The paper includes an example of a reflection lab that was organized virtually for more than 2 years due to Corona restrictions. By combining aspects of ‘strong reflexivity’ (analyzing researcher subjectivities for epistemic purposes) and ‘ethical reflexivity’ (addressing power inequalities and socio-political implications) reflection labs provide an innovative tool for an engaged, analytical research practice that pursues participatory goals and strives for ethical conduct and accountability.

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